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According to an article published by the Skin Cancer Foundation, researchers in Miami found that when local parents were surveyed about how well they protected their babies from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays, results were ‘alarming’:
‘Many parents efforts were inconsistent,’ the article reported. ‘Worse, we found that as many as one-third of parents actively increased their infants’ sun exposure each day, believing mistakenly that it would build their babies’ tolerance to the sun’s rays. As a result, 12 percent of the parents reported that their babies’ skin had tanned before they were 6 months old, and 3 percent said their infants had been sunburned.’
“If you have a child or grandchild who is six months old or younger, you should take extra precautions to protect the baby’s sensitive skin from the sun’s harmful ultra violet rays,” says Richard Price, M.D., of Price Skin Care Clinic in Ridgeland, MS. “Before six months of age, babies of all skin colors (not just those with fair skin) have not yet developed enough melanin in their skin to provide some sun protection. This makes them more vulnerable to sun exposure and sunburns, which increase their risk of melanoma.”
Although Price Skin Care Clinic does not treat infants or children, many of our patients have children or grandchildren who enjoy the sun and can benefit from sun safety tips especially for babies, toddlers and children.
Here are five summer sun safety tips for babies six months of age or younger:
Sun Safety Tip #1: Choose shade over sunscreen
If possible, sunscreen should be avoided for babies six months old or younger. It’s better to use shade to protect your baby from the sun’s harmful rays. If you’re on the move and can’t find shade, make your own with an umbrella, a make-shift tent or the canopy cover of a stroller.
Sun Safety Tip #2: Dress baby in protective clothing
• When dressing baby for summer activities outdoors, choose lightweight long-sleeved shirts and pants. No shorts, short-sleeves or diapers only.
• To provide shade on baby’s head, have them wear a wide-brimmed hat.
• Purchase ultraviolet sunglasses for infants and keep those on baby.
Sun Safety Tip #3: Use sunscreen only if necessary
• As mentioned above, sunscreen should be avoided for babies six months old or younger if possible. But if you find yourself with no shade and inadequate protective clothing, you can apply a small amount of sunscreen on babies younger than six months. Take care to keep sunscreen out of baby’s eyes.
• Use a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with an SPF of
at least 30.
• Sunscreens listing ingredients titanium dioxide or zinc oxide are less likely to
irritate a baby’s sensitive skin.
• Reapply the sunscreen every two hours or immediately after swimming or sweating.
Sun Safety Tip #4: Install a UV shield in car windows
You might be surprised to know that your baby’s skin also needs protection while riding in a car. By law, windshields are treated to filter out most UVA rays but the side and rear windows are not. UVA rays can still penetrate these windows and damage your baby’s skin.
To keep baby safe while riding in a car:
• Purchase a UV shield and hang it over the window where sunlight shines on baby’s car seat.
• Or purchase professional protective window film and apply to windows. However, check local regulations for protective window film as they can vary from state to state.
• If you can’t take either of these two safety measures, then follow the advice in Sun Safety Tip #2 and dress baby in protective clothing, including sun-safe sunglasses and hat.
Sun Safety Tip #5: Be extra safe with baby on hot days
Hot summer temperatures increase the risks of dehydration, heat exhaustion and other heat-related injuries and illnesses. So be sure to pay careful attention to baby on hot days:
• See that baby keeps hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids.
* Keep baby cool to prevent overheating.
• If baby is fussy, crying a lot, or has redness on any exposed skin, follow baby’s cue and go indoors immediately.
Vigilance is Key
For parents and grandparents keeping watch over older brothers and sisters on the playground, at the beach, or family picnics, it’s easy to get distracted and forget to carefully monitor baby. So be mindful, vigilant and take extra care to follow these sun safety rules for babies.
If you know someone with children or grandchildren who would benefit from this article, please share.