Protecting infants from the sun is a key concern for all parents. As adults, it’s already hard enough to prescribe ourselves a safe sun protection regimen, but when it comes to our babies, it’s even harder. Infants are far more sensitive to the sun and chemicals in sunscreens, and the protocol for them requires extra attention.
Baby skin is less mature and thus very vulnerable to the outdoor elements and any man-made products it comes in contact with. Infants also have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to children and adults. These factors together are reason why sun exposure and the chemicals in most mainstream sunscreens can be harmful. Babies also don’t have a developed heating and cooling mechanism in their bodies, which means they cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently and effectively as children and adults. Sun exposure can put babies at risk of overheating and becoming dehydrated. And while sunscreen is recommended for children and adults, it’s not always a solid choice for the youngest among us.
The best approach is to keep infants under 6 months out of the sun, avoiding exposure particularly between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. If avoiding the sun is impossible, talk to your pediatrician about how best to apply sunscreen to your child. Generally, any sunscreen applied to infants should be to small areas only, like to their cheeks and back of hands, and should have an SPF of 15 or more. And don’t just go with any run-of-the-mill sunscreen. Instead, choose wisely. The Environmental Working Group has done extensive research in sunscreen products and has rated and ranked most of the common brands out there.
In addition to keeping your baby out of the sun as much as possible, other tips include making sure that your child is sufficiently hydrated at all times and wears clothing that covers and protects the skin, including a hat. If your child starts urinating less than usual, this may indicate he or she is dehydrated.
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Mother and baby image via Shutterstock