By: Lainie Harris, Penfield Children’s Center
Who doesn’t want to be outside in the summertime? When spending time at the beach, pool, or simply in one’s own yard, it is important to remember to protect your child from the sun’s harmful rays.
According to Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., a pediatrician at the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), “The best approach is to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun, and to particularly avoid exposure to the sun in the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when ultraviolet (UV) rays are most intense.”
The best way to protect your baby from the sun is to keep him in the shade, whether it be natural shade, the shade of a stroller, or a sun hat.
“Babies’ skin is less mature compared to adults, and infants have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults,” explains Sachs. “Both these factors mean that an infant’s exposure to the chemicals in sunscreens may be much greater, increasing the risk of side effects from the sunscreen.”
Dr. Sachs recommends skipping the sunscreen (for babies younger than 6 months) in favor of the shade.
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) suggests dressing infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts, and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn. Tight weaves are better than loose. Remember to check on your child’s temperature diligently.
“Younger infants also don’t sweat like we do,” Sachs says. “Sweat naturally cools the rest of us down when we’re hot, but babies haven’t yet fully developed that built-in heating-and-cooling system. So you want to make sure your baby doesn’t get overheated.”
Babies also have a greater chance of dehydration, so it’s important to continually offer breast milk or formula throughout the day. Sachs says that the water in both breast milk and formula helps keep babies well hydrated.
Warning signs of sunburn and dehydration
- Excessive crying
Sunscreen is okay to use on babies 6 months or older.
Apply sunscreen generously, and reapply every two hours (or more often if your baby is spending time in the water or perspiring). Avoid your child’s eyes, nose, and mouth when applying sunscreen. Stay away from combination sunscreen-bug spray lotions, especially when they contain DEET.
Safety Tips for Spending Time in the Sun
- Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible.
- HYDRATE! This is key!
- Consult your pediatrician before using any sunscreen on your baby.
- Watch your baby carefully to make sure he or she doesn’t show warning signs of sunburn or dehydration.
- Make sure your child wears clothing that covers and protects sensitive skin.
- Make sure your baby wears a hat that provides sufficient shade at all times.
What are some creative solutions you can think of to keep your baby in the shade?