The summer sun is sweltering, which can be a great time to hit the pool or the beach to cool off. Most pediatricians recommending waiting until a baby is 6 months of age before applying sunscreen, yet with a baby’s sensitive, how do you protect them from the sun’s rays? A new consumer report from the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) offers advice on protecting babies from the sun.
Doctor Hari Cheryl Sachs, a pediatrician for the FDA, explains that the best way to protect babies under 6 months is to simply keep them out of the sun. Also, Dr. Sachs recommends avoiding sun expose when the ultraviolet (UV) rays are most intense- between the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
We know adults should wear sunscreen, but why not babies? Infants have a higher surface area to body weight ratio compared to children and adults as well as much thinner skin. The combination of these factors means that babies absorb far more of the active chemical ingredients in sunscreen, increasing the risk of allergies and inflammation.
The best option is to keep babies in the shade, and bring an umbrella or stroller with a canopy if no natural shade is available. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends dressing a baby in lightweight, breathable clothing that covers their arms and legs, and brimmed hats to protect ears and the back of the neck.
Here are the additional Sun Safety Tips for Infants provided by the FDA:
- Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible. If you do use a small amount of sunscreen on your baby, don’t assume the child is well protected.
- Make sure your child wears clothing that covers and protects sensitive skin. Use common sense; if you hold the fabric against your hand and it’s so sheer that you can see through it, it probably doesn’t offer enough protection.
- Make sure your baby wears a hat that provides sufficient shade at all times.
- Watch your baby carefully to make sure he or she doesn’t show warning signs of sunburn or dehydration. These include fussiness, redness and excessive crying.
- Hydrate! Babies do not a fully developed heating and cooling system yet, so you want to make sure your baby doesn’t get overheated. Give your baby formula, breast milk, or a small amount of water between feedings if you’re out in the sun for more than a few minutes. Don’t forget to use a cooler to store the liquids.
- Take note of how much your baby is urinating. If it’s less than usual, it may be a sign of dehydration, and that more fluids are needed until the flow is back to normal.
- Avoid sunscreens containing the insect repellant DEET on infants, particularly on their hands. Young children may lick their hands or put them in their mouths. According to AAP, DEET should not be used on infants less than 2 months old.
- If you do notice your baby is becoming sunburned, get out of the sun right away and apply cold compresses to the affected areas.