We all know that spending an afternoon out in the sun without sunscreen is not a good idea. Getting sunburned is very painful and uncomfortable, and it causes skin damage. If this is the damage we suffer, imagine the impact on a baby! A baby getting sunburned is quite different from an adult. The same exposure to the sun is much more serious for babies than for adults. It can cause dehydration, fever, blisters, heat stroke, and even become a medical emergency.
Your baby’s skin is highly sensitive, thin, and contains very little melanin (skin pigment that protects from the sun). For this reason, it gets sunburned very fast, and even if it doesn’t become a medical emergency, sunburn can cause permanent damage. As parents, it is very important to take proper measures to protect your baby from the sun. Here are a few tips to keep him safe:
Basic tips for sun safety:
When you go out:
• Avoid direct sunlight when your baby is less than 6 months old.
• Dress him in light clothing that covers his arms and legs. Choose bright colors and tightly woven fabrics, so the sunrays can’t penetrate.
• Use a hat that protects his face, neck, and ears.
• Try to walk in the shadows as much as possible.
• Use a stroller with sunshade.
• Avoid going out between 10 am and 4 pm, hours when the sun is at its strongest.
• If you go out to have lunch, try to eat inside. If you can’t, look for the shade of umbrellas or trees.
• Don’t be fooled by cloudy days, despite not seeing the sun, the UVB / UVA rays will still burn your baby.
Riding in the car:
• Place your baby’s car seat in the middle of the car to keep your baby away from sunny windows.
• If possible, place sun-blocking panels on your windows; these help reduce the entry of ultraviolet rays.
Should I apply sunscreen or not?
This question has created a lot of debate among experts. On one hand the FDA (US Food and Drug Administration) and the Skin Cancer Foundation don’t recommend applying sunscreen to infants younger than 6 months. On the other hand, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends applying special baby sunscreen in small areas of exposed skin, like the hands and face.
If you decide to apply sunscreen on exposed areas follow these recommendations:
• Use sunscreen made specifically for babies, containing zinc oxide or titanium dioxide. These types of sunscreen protect the skin against UVB and UVA rays. Also, they are not absorbed by the skin as other products.
• First apply sunscreen on a small area to test skin reactions.
• Avoid sunscreens containing PABA or oxybenzone.
• Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going out.