It was previously thought that babies under six months should not use sunscreen. The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a new statement saying that a small amount of sunscreen on the exposed areas of an infant is acceptable, though checking with your pediatrician first is sometimes advised. Some dermatologists recommend sunscreen products with zinc oxide preferentially for infants. Children younger than six months are considered especially vulnerable to the effects of the sun for a few reasons:
Their skin has less protective pigment at this age, and they have a relatively larger surface area for their size than do adults.
It is likely that more of the sunscreen ingredients can be absorbed into infant skin, which means a safe product for larger kids isn't presumed safe for infants until it has been thoroughly studied.
For these and other reasons, the advice is to be extra conservative for the youngest children, and it is still best to keep infants under six months old out of direct sunlight and well covered with clothing and a hat. Newborns are an even more vulnerable group and should always be kept covered and out of direct sunlight.
Don't forget that peak sun hours are from 10am to 3pm for the burning uvb rays, but uva rays, which do not
have peak hours, are present all day and cause the skin to age.
Find out if your child is taking any medication that causes increased sensitivity to the sun. If she is, be extra cautious outdoors.
Do not gauge your baby's exposure to the sun by reddening of the skin. A burn doesn't show for two to four hours after exposure and then it's too late.
For extra precaution, have your baby wear a hat that has a brim as well as light, long-sleeved t-shirts. Parasols, strollers, and carriages also offer protection.
For babies old enough for sunscreen, apply to all areas of the body not covered by clothing. Choose sunscreens with SPF 15 to 30. Beyond 30, the price becomes more expensive, but there is no protection advantage. Keep a bottle handy in your diaper bag for unexpected exposure.
Symptoms of sunburn usually don't appear fully until 12 to 14 hours after exposure. If the baby's burn is red, warm and painful you can treat it with cold compresses and/or cool water baths. You can also give acetaminophen to help relieve the pain. If the sunburn causes fever, chills, headache, or blisters, contact your pediatrician immediately.
BabyZone's own Dr. Sadler suggests not using the combination sunscreens and insect repellants, as kids tend to end up with too much repellant and not enough sunscreen.
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