Monday, February 04, 2008

Baby Sun Protection

Baby Sun Protection
By Jenny Schweyer

You may have heard the advice that it's best to keep a baby out of the sun entirely. This can be a challenge, especially with babies that are a little bit older: old enough to protest being covered up by a blanket, but too young to let you know he's getting a sunburn or to move out of the sun into a shady spot. So what's a parent to do? After all, it's important to give your baby outside play time too. So how do you balance the need for fun and exercise with the need to protect your baby's skin? By using the right baby sun protection.

Experts recommend that babies under six months old NEVER be exposed to direct sunlight. There are a number of reasons for this. First, its common sense that baby's skin is more sensitive than an older child's or adult's skin, and therefore more susceptible to sun damage. In fact, a baby's skin is thinner and will burn and sustain long-term UV damage in a much shorter time than children or adults, and once the damage is done it can never be undone. Baby sun protection is important due to the fact that babies have more skin per square inch of body mass than children and adults, so a sunburn would be much more serious (and painful) for a baby. Unfortunately, baby's sensitive skin may not be very tolerant of sunscreen either. In fact, opinion is still divided as to whether it is safe for babies younger than six months to wear sunscreen. Since a baby's thin skin may absorb more of the sunscreen than a child or adult's skin would, and since it was not known what the long-term effects of sunscreen would be, experts once recommended that parents not use sunscreen on babies under six months. More recently, the American Academy of Dermatology and the American Academy of Pediatrics have stated that no adverse effects have been noted from the use of sunscreen on young babies/infants. However, sunburns do pose a significant danger to babies, and so it may be appropriate to use sunscreen on babies younger than six months. However, it is better, if possible, to simply eliminate sun exposure altogether for this age group by using sun protective clothing, sunglasses, hats, blankets, covered strollers, etc.

If you are a parent, you know the challenges that begin when babies become more mobile. While an infant won't object to having a blanket draped over his carrier or car seat an older baby will most certainly balk at this. Experts agree that babies six months and older can and should be covered with a layer of sunscreen on a daily basis, and certainly when they are outside. This way, when blankets fail or baby insists on having the roof removed from his stroller he will be protected from the sun's UV rays. Don't forget to protect baby from the sun during long car rides too. While the car's windows will block some of the sun's UV rays, a few of them do manage to pass through and babies have been known to sustain serious sunburns while riding in car seats, so baby sun protection is vital in the car too.

It's important to be vigilant when baby is in the sun. Sunscreen should not be an excuse for indifference. You wouldn't give your child a lifejacket and then walk away from him while he swims in a lake. Neither should you put sunscreen on a baby and then assume he's protected for the rest of the day. Sunscreen is only one step in the process of UV protection, and should be considered the least effective one. Babies should be dressed in UV protective clothing if possible. This doesn't mean you should be tempted, though, to put long sleeves on your baby in July to protect him from the sun. Babies should always be dressed in a manner that you would dress yourself. If it's 90Ú outside you probably wouldn't put on a sweatshirt, so don't dress baby in one either. Babies are at a greater risk of overheating than adults are, so t-shirts and shorts are best when the temperature soars. Instead, stick to shady areas when outdoors. Putting a wide-brimmed hat on baby will offer more shade when a tree isn't available, and don't forget to protect his eyes with sunglasses. If you do take baby to the park or the pool limit the amount of time he is in direct sunlight to 15 minutes at a time. Then spend 15 minutes in the shade, and take time to examine his skin for signs of sunburn, and reapply sunscreen if necessary.

Dressing your baby in UV protective clothing can greatly decrease his risk of sun damage. Using UV protective clothing will allow him to remain cool in hot weather, while still having an extra layer of sun protection. Be sure you apply sunscreen under the clothing, not just to the parts of his skin that are exposed to sunlight. Sunscreen plus clothing plus hats/sunglasses equal layers of protection that will keep your baby's skin safe, and ultimately protect his health. So make baby sun protection a priority every time you go out, even for short periods of time. It only takes a few extra minutes, and may provide a lifetime of protection for his health.

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1 comment:

Steve said...

I should treat myself like a baby where the sun is concerned, I burn like toast as easy as pie.