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FDA Issues New Advisory on Sunscreen for Infants

Katlyn Joy | 2, July 2012


The FDA issued an advisory this week aimed at the parents of the youngest infants. This advisory is that babies under 6 months should not have sunscreen applied to their delicate skin. Rather, the FDA advises that parents keep such young babies out of the sun altogether particularly during the most sun-intense times of day, between 10 am and 2 pm.

The reason sunscreen should be avoided is that young infant skin is much thinner than older childen's or adult's skin and the chemicals in sunscreen are more easily and quickly absorbed. The concentration of chemicals in a young infant's skin is therefore much higher than in older children. Also, the ratio of sun-surface area to body weight is higher in younger infants. Both of these are primary reasons for forgoing sunscreen at these ages in order to prevent allergic reactions or inflammation.

The FDA advises using umbrellas to create a shady space, or utilize shady areas when outdoors. If baby is in a stroller be sure and use a canopy. If there is no avoiding the sun, then apply only a small amount of sunscreen to areas such as the cheeks and the back of the hands. To test the child's reaction to the chemicals, first apply to a tiny patch inside the wrist.

Beside the danger of sensitivity to sunscreen or the effects of damaging ultra-violet rays, heat itself is a summer concern for newborn infants.

According to Hari Cheryl Sachs, M.D., a pediatrician at the Food and Drug Administration, "Younger infants also don't sweat like we do."

That means newborn babies don't have that internal cooling down system of sweating and lowering body temperature. This makes young babies susceptible to dehydration.

To avoid infants becoming dehydrated, offer formula or breastmilk as usual and add some water in between feedings if you are out in sun or hot weather. Keep baby's bottles chilled to avoid spoilage.

Keep baby covered in cool lightweight clothing that covers as much as the body as possible.Use hats to provide even greater sun protection.

Watch out for signs of dehydration such as flushed skin tone, fussiness or excessive crying, or lethargy. Make sure baby is wetting the usual amount of diapers during the day. Increase fluid intake and get baby cooled off if urine output seems at all decreased, (less than 6-8 diapers per day).

Make certain sunscreens around baby are not insect repellents containing DEET. Baby may indirectly ingest the chemicals by putting their hands in their mouths or by licking or sucking other body parts.

If baby gets sunburned, get baby out of the sun, including reflected sun off water surfaces, and apply cold compresses, but not ice.

Being sunsafe means planning ahead with the smallest family members. Remember time of day, proper protective clothing including sunglasses or hat with wide brims, shaded areas, adequate hydration and watching for signs of dehydration or overheating.

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