When summer hits us (and boy, does it hit us) I get a lot of questions from new parents about sunscreen for their infants. "Can I put sunscreen on my baby?", "Which sunscreen is the best?", and "Are they safe?" My answer to the first question is always, "Don't, if you can avoid it."
Sunscreens list directions for use on adults and older children, but not for infants.There are two important reasons for this:(1) Infants' skin is much thinner, which allows the chemical ingredients in sunscreens to absorb much easier, and (2) infants have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio, which means there is a lot more skin to absorb the chemicals.This combination increases the risk for inflammation and allergic reactions.
What should you do?
Dr. Hari Cheryl Sachs, a pediatrician at the FDA recommends the following:
1.The best protection is to keep your baby in the shade whenever possible.If there's no natural shade, create your own with an umbrella or the canopy of the stroller.
2.Dress your child in clothing that covers their delicate skin:Lightweight, long pants, a long-sleeved shirt and a brimmed hat that shades the neck.Baseball caps do not protect the neck.
3.If it is not possible to avoid the sun, you can apply a small amount of sunscreen (SPF 15 or greater) to small areas, such as their cheeks and back of hands.Always test your baby's sensitivity to sunscreen FIRST by applying a small amount to their inner wrist and wait an hour.
4.Avoid sunscreens containing DEET insect repellant on infants, especially on their hands as they're always sticking them in their mouths.Don't use DEET on infants younger than 2 months.
5.If your baby becomes sunburned, get them out of the sun right away and apply cold compresses to the affected areas.
Babies can become dangerously dehydrated very quickly.Here are some tips to help prevent this from happening:
1.Give formula, breast milk or water between feedings, even if out in the sun for only a few minutes.Use a cooler to keep liquids chilled.
2.Watch for signs of dehydration: Extremely fussy or sleepy, lethargic, dry mouth and lips, no tears when crying and/or sunken fontanels (soft spots on a baby's head).
3.Monitor the number of wet diapers.If your baby is urinating less than usual or if the urine is dark in color, it could be a sign of dehydration.
By taking a few simple precautions, you can help keep your baby safe from sunburn and dehydration this summer. Enjoy your time in the sun!
Photo courtesy of FDA.gov