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Sun Safety for Babies and Toddlers

Katlyn Joy | 5, June 2012


Sun Safety for Babies and Toddlers

If a baby gets just one blistering sunburn in childhood, the risk of developing melanoma later in life more than doubles, according to the Skin Cancer Foundation.

That means the decisions you make in the earliest months and years carries well into your child's adulthood. Make sun smart choices to protect your baby or toddler now and throughout his life.

Timing is everything. Sun exposure is most dangerous between the hours of 10:00am 4:00pm when the rays are strongest. While it's not always possible to stay indoors during those times, if you do take your child out during that time period, sun protection is all the more important.

Know what sunscreen to use. Under 6 months old, you must skip the sunscreen as baby's skin is far too delicate. That means it's also too delicate to be exposed to bright sun. For babies and toddlers over six months, use an SPF of at least 15 and probably 30 is best. You also want a product that offers full spectrum protection from both UVA and UVB rays.

Keep it covered. Dressing for the sun means wearing clothing made of a tight weave, with long sleeves and preferably of cotton are good bets. Even better choices are clothing that are made to protect children from the sun, Ultraviolet Protection Factor (UPF) of 30 are recommended by the Skin Cancer Foundation. Also, don't forget wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses for added protection.

Reapply, reapply and do it some more. Just remembering sunscreen before an outing is not enough. Sunscreen must be reapplied every two hours or after sweating or swimming. If your child will be doing watery activities, look for sunscreen expressly made for that purpose so you won't need to reapply quite as often. Also remember that you should apply the sunscreen about 30 minutes before heading into the sun.

Read the label. Some ingredients that indicate higher protection levels include titanium dioxide, avobenzone, and zinc oxide. Also, look for products that are especially catering to the tiny crowd such as tearless, gentle and waterproof. Also, sprays are often easier to manage with little ones that regular lotions.

Don't skimp. Many parents miss the mark by not applying enough sunscreen. A child needs about one-half ounce of product or enough to fill the child's palm. Skimping means your child isn't protected.

Windows allow sunshine in, and your child can be burned. Consider using a window shade made for cars especially for the youngest riders. Don't assume baby can't get burned through glass because UV rays can penetrate the windows. Consider sun safe baby tents or cabanas for extended day play at the beach or on other outings. These play structures can provide a safe area to put baby that the sun cannot reach. This is a good compromise so the family can still be on the go and have baby in tow.

Watch for allergies. Some children seem sensitive to sunscreen formulas. If that's the case, the ingredient to watch out for is PABA. Avoid that and you should be good.

Don't assume a baby with darker skin is safe. All children, even children of color need protected from the sun's harmful rays. The American Academy of Dermatology recommends all children use SPF of 30. While children with more melanin have the ability to tan rather than burn, they can still get damage from the sun and with enough exposure, can get painful burns.

What to Do if Your Child Gets Sunburned

Sunburns may not show up for hours following the sun exposure. However, usually by evening, the skin will be red and painful.

Mild sunburns will cause pain and possibly itch. Severe sunburns will possibly tingle and may produce blisters on the skin. Severe burns can also cause headaches, chills and fever.

If your child has a sunburn, give the child a cool but not cold bath. Use cool rags or compresses to give comfort. Watch for dehydration and give plenty of extra drinks especially of water. Give your child pain reliever at the appropriate dose. Apply a gentle moisturizer or aloe cream gently to the affected area.

Seek immediate medical attention if your child seems to feel quite unwell, has a fever, chills, blistered skin, or seems dehydrated. Lethargy is not a sign of a mild sunburn but a symptom of a more serious sun burn.

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