Your baby’s skin is much more sensitive to the sun than yours. It doesn’t have the same amount of melanin, and it is much thinner. According to the March of Dimes, babies can get a sunburn within 15 minutes. This doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t ever take your baby outside, but it does mean you need to take some precautions to help keep your baby safe.
Should you use sunscreen?
Sunscreen isn’t recommended for babies under the age of six months. Before that age, it is recommended that you keep your baby in shaded areas or spend time outdoors before 10:00 AM and after 4:00 PM. If you do need to be outside in the sun, use a small amount of sunscreen on parts of his/her body that are exposed to the sun, such as the face and hands. Make sure it is a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15. You might want to test the sunscreen first, applying a small amount to one part of the body, such as the inner wrist, to make sure your baby doesn’t have any reaction to it. Once your baby reaches the age of six months, you should apply sunscreen every day, even when it is cloudy outside.
Dressing for sun protection
The clothes you choose for your baby can go a long way in protecting their skin. The American Academy of Pediatrics suggests the following:
- Use lightweight clothes that have long pants and long-sleeved shirts. Use tight woven fabrics (hold the fabric to the light; if you can see through the fabric, it probably doesn’t offer much sun protection.)
- Put a wide brimmed hat on your baby. The brim should ideally be at least four inches wide. Caps do not offer protection on the neck and ears; look for a hat that has a brim all the way around the hat.
Watch for signs of sunburn
If you notice signs that your baby is getting a sunburn, immediately get out of the sun and apply cold compresses. While sunburn in adults can increase your risk of skin cancer and cause symptoms such as blistering and pain, sunburn is much more dangerous in infants. Not only does it increase their risk of developing skin cancer later in life, it can cause pain, fever, blisters, infection and heatstroke. In young children, these can be medical emergencies. The signs of sunburn include redness, pain and warm skin. These can appear up to 12 hours after being in the sun. You should contact your pediatrician any time your baby (especially less than six months old) gets a sunburn.
Protect your baby in the car
The sun’s rays can penetrate glass. That means even when you are driving in the car, your child is in danger of getting a sunburn. The best way to prevent this is to have UV blocking film on your car windows. If this isn’t possible, put your child’s car seat in the middle of the back seat, away from the direct sunlight.
Besides sunburn, it is important to make sure your baby stays hydrated when out in the sun and warm weather. Infants are not able to regulate body temperature and are more susceptible to heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Make sure your baby has enough fluids. Offer formula or breast milk if you are outside for more than a few minutes.
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Eileen Bailey is a freelance health writer. She is the author of What Went Right: Reframe Your Thinking for a Happier Now, Idiot’s Guide to Adult ADHD, Idiot’s Guide to Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Essential Guide to Overcoming Obsessive Love, and Essential Guide to Asperger’s Syndrome. She can be found on Twitter @eileenmbailey and on Facebook at eileenmbailey.