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ASK THE 0-3 TEAM: Keep baby safe in the sun

on June 10, 2014 10:50 AM

Question: We are a very active family and love to spend time outside. How do I keep my baby safe in the sun?

Answer: Babies can quickly suffer the short- and long-term damage of sunburn and heat stroke, so keeping your baby safe in the sun is crucial.

Sunburn can cause pain, fever and dehydration.

And just one sunburn during childhood raises the risk of mela-noma (the most deadly type of skin cancer) as well as wrinkles later in life.

Keep your baby completely out of the sun as much as possible before 6 months.

When you do go outdoors, be careful. The sun is strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., so when you can, time your stroll or outside play with your baby in the early morning or in the evening.

When you do venture out, keep in mind that the sun’s rays bounce off surfaces such as water, snow, cement and sand.

But your baby can also get burned at other times of day and on cloudy or cool days.

Why? Because it’s not the heat of the sun that burns the skin, it’s the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays.

Try to keep your baby in the shade — under a tree or umbrella, for example. You may be surprised to learn that shade provides only partial protection against UV rays. Without sunscreen or other protection, even a baby in the shade can get sunburned.

Whether your baby is bald or has a full head of hair, a hat is a must. Choose a hat with flaps in the back for neck protection and a brim that’s wide enough to shade the face.

A brim that protects the ears is better than one that protects only in front.

Choose a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Look for the words “broad spectrum” on the label. “Broad spectrum” means the product protects against both UVA and UVB rays. UVB rays are more likely to cause sunburn and wrinkling, while UVA rays cause damage deeper in the skin.

Apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before heading outdoors and reapply it every two hours.

Make sure you cover all exposed areas of your baby’s skin, including the tips of the ears, the back of the neck and the tops of the feet.

If your baby goes into the water, reapply sunscreen as soon as you towel him off — even if it’s been less than two hours since you applied it.

Replace sunscreen periodically. Active ingredients lose effectiveness after a while.

Protect your baby from the heat as well as the sun.

Check with your baby’s other caregivers to be certain that they understand the importance of protecting your baby from the sun.

Daycare facilities often take specific precautions before heading outdoors with children, although most will keep young babies indoors whenever possible.

Provide sunscreen and appropriate clothing for your baby’s caregivers to use.

Tote sunscreen in your diaper bag, along with a hat and little sunglasses, if your baby’s willing to wear them.

Submitted by Jocelyn Debick, the children’s services associate director at accessAbilities. She is the mother of three teens and has worked in the field of early childhood education for more than 20 years.

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