The temperatures are rising and cabin fever has you and your little one itching to head outdoors. But before trekking to the backyard, remember that a baby’s skin is far more sensitive and more susceptible to sunburns than an adult’s.
According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, “Just one blistering sunburn in childhood more than doubles a person’s chances of developing melanoma later in life.” However, before you retreat back to the home, know that by following the proper safety precautions, you and baby can enjoy the season, alfresco.
“You want to make them very protected because their skin is so delicate – and because of the chances of increasing cancer later in life,” says Neena Bhargava, M.D., a pediatrician at McLaren Pediatrics in Macomb. Here, she offers tips on how to protect baby’s precious skin this summer and what to do if a sunburn does occur.
Bhargava advises parents to stay indoors during the peak hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. During this time, the sun’s rays are at its most intense.
If you are out during this time, “Keep babies in the shade and make sure they are well hydrated,” says Bhargava. Remember, this also pertains to cloudy and cooler days, too, in which the sun’s ultraviolet rays can still cause burns. For children younger than 6 months old, Bhargava says to always avoid direct sunlight.
Feel free to enjoy those picnics at the park. Just make sure to keep your baby sheltered and cool by putting him or her under a beach-style umbrella or beneath a large tree. For those long walks, a stroller with a canopy is necessary. For ultimate protection, try one with built-in UV protection. A window screen for the car, which can protect against harmful rays while on the road will also help, suggests Bhargava.
Slather on sunscreen
Baby younger than 6 months? Skip the sunscreen, says Bhargava: It absorbs easily through an infant’s thin skin. But if there’s no way to keep your child from the sun, she adds, you can apply a small amount to areas of exposed skin.
For babies over the half-year mark, apply sunscreen 30 minutes before heading outdoors. Choose a sunscreen approved for babies and avoid products that include an insect repellent. Always apply sunscreen, whether you will be in direct sunlight or not: Burns can still occur when in shaded areas.
Bhargava suggests using a sunscreen with an SPF of 15 or higher. Look for products that protect against both UVA and UVB rays, often labeled as “broad spectrum.” Got a little tadpole on your hands? Remember to reapply every two hours after swimming and after towel drying.
Dress in protective clothing
Tiny tanks and ruffled shorts are cute, but save the sleeveless styles for indoors and choose clothing that covers and minimizes sun exposure.
Dress your child in loose, lightweight clothing and always opt for long-sleeved tops and pants. Bhargava recommends parents use clothing in “lighter colors” versus darker hues, which can “attract the sun.”
She also suggests that parents always employ “a hat with a brim and sunglasses.”
Try a cooling agent
If your baby does get a sunburn, Bhargava says to “treat it more like a burn.” Cool it down with a cold-water bath and apply moisturizer or aloe vera. If blisters do appear, call a doctor.
While it is fun to play outside, guarding your baby’s skin from damage and burns is of utmost importance. Always remember to take the proper precautions to keep baby, and also yourself, protected from the sun’s harmful rays.
Discover other key ways to keep your kids safe – whatever their age – in the sun.
This post was originally published in 2013 and is updated regularly.