At last, the winter has finally ended and though it’s been a crazy spring with temperatures bouncing between hot and cold, it feels like we are on the cusp of some warmer temperatures! If this is your first summer with baby, you may have questions about sunscreen and concerns about exposing your baby to sun and heat.
Limiting and monitoring sun and heat exposure is important, and requires some thought and preparation. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping babies younger than six months out of direct sunlight, finding shade under a tree, umbrella or the canopy of your stroller, and limiting sun exposure between the hours of 10am-4pm when UV rays are the strongest.
During the first six months of baby’s life, safe, effective sun protection gear should include the following:
- lightweight, light-colored, long sleeved-shirts and cotton pants
- a sunhat or cap with a brim that faces forward to shield the face and one with a neck flap
- sunglasses (with at least 99% UV protection) A helpful feature of some infant sunglasses is a velcro strap that fastens around the back of baby’s head
According to the AAP recommendations for sunscreen are as follows:
- Sunscreen can be used for babies younger than 6 months on small areas of the body including the face and backs of the hands, back of the neck, tips of the ears and tops of the feet, (any area not protected by clothing or shade)
- Use a sunscreen product that states “broad-spectrum” on the label, which means that it protects for both UVB and UVA rays, with a SPF of at least 15.
- Look for a UVA “star” rating system (ratings vary from 1 star, which is lowest protection, to 4 stars, the highest protection available in an over-the-counter product.)
- For particularly sensitive areas, such as the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears and shoulders, use sunblock that contacts zinc oxide or titanium dioxide.
- For babies older than 6 months, sunscreen should be applied to all areas of the body that will be exposed to the sun, but be careful around baby’s eyes. If sunscreen does get in her eyes, wipe her eyes and hands with a clean, damp cloth. Sunscreen should be applied 15-30 minutes before going out of doors to allow enough time for the sunscreen to absorb into the skin, and should be reapplied every one and a half to two hours.
Sun and heat exposure can occur on cloudy days, and even when baby is sitting under an umbrella at the beach or pool, as sand and water can reflect the sun’s rays and (and heat). Lightweight baby tents that can be easily put up and taken down can be helpful, though parents still need to monitor baby when using a tent.
As you plan and enjoy the coming days of summer, remember that caution, moderation and common sense are the keys to a happy and healthy summer for the whole family!