Whether it’s vacation, shopping, hanging out at the pool or lake or simply in the backyard lots of families will be spending time outdoors. Because their skin is thinner and they lack the ability to sweat, experts want parents and guardians to know that babies need extra protection from the sun.
You might think that sunscreen is the solution - and many parents trying to do the right thing, do cover their little ones in it - but the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and the American Academy of Pediatrics, does NOT recommend sunscreen for infants under 6 months old.
Dr. Hari Cheryl Sachs, a pediatrician with the FDA, said parents should avoid putting sunscreen on their infants. Sachs explained that young babies' skin is much thinner than that of adults and can absorb the active, chemical ingredients found in sunscreens more easily. She noted that because they have a relatively high surface-area to body-weight ratio, they are at greater risk for allergic reactions or inflammation from exposure to sunscreen.
"The best approach is to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun, and to avoid exposure to the sun in the hours between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when ultraviolet (UV) rays are most intense," Sachs said in an FDA news release.
Stroller canopies or an umbrella can offer shade if you have your infant outside. If there are no other options available, a small amount of sunscreen with a sun-protection factor of at least 15 can be applied to small areas of exposed skin, such as the cheeks and back of the hands. Applying a small amount of sunscreen to the baby's inner wrist first to test for sensitivity is a good idea, Sachs noted.
Sachs and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) offered additional tips to ensure infants are protected from sun exposure, including:
- To prevent sunburns, dress infants in lightweight pants and shirts with long sleeves, as well as hats with brims that shade the ears and neck, advised the AAP. Sheer fabrics should be avoided because they could still result in a sunburn.
- Ensure babies are well hydrated. Offer them their usual feeding of breast milk or formula, said Sachs. Use a cooler to store the liquids if they will be out in the sun for more than a few minutes.
- Monitor babies for signs of sunburn or dehydration, including fussiness, redness, excessive crying and lack of urination.
- If sunscreen is applied to babies, steer clear of products containing the insect repellant DEET.
- Babies who become sunburned should be taken out of the sun immediately, and cold compresses should be applied to the affected areas.
The AAP has more sun safety tips for kids older than 6 months.
- The first, and best, line of defense against harmful ultraviolet radiation (UVR) exposure is covering up. Wear a hat with a three-inch brim or a bill facing forward, sunglasses (look for sunglasses that provide 97% -100% protection against both UVA and UVB rays), and cotton clothing with a tight weave.
- Stay in the shade whenever possible, and limit sun exposure during the peak intensity hours - between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- On both sunny and cloudy days use a sunscreen with an SPF 15 or greater that protects against UVA and UVB rays.
- Be sure to apply enough sunscreen -- about one ounce per sitting for a young adult (18-21 years old.)
- Reapply sunscreen every two hours, or after swimming or sweating.
- Use extra caution near water and sand (and even snow!) as they reflect UV rays and may result in sunburn more quickly.
We all know how damaging and painful sunburn can be. If you have a baby, most likely he or she will be included in some of the family’s outdoor activities this summer, just make sure that your little one is protected from the sun.
If you have questions about your child and sunscreen, talk with your pediatrician about it. He or she can give you the best advice on when to begin using suncreen and the SPF that’s right for your particular child.