Baby Staying Safe in the Summer Sun and Understanding SPF


Do you miss the sun throughout the winter but in the summer months feel like you should live in a cave to protect your infant’s delicate skin from the sun? You are not alone in your frustration. A cave may not be necessary, but the American Academy of Dermatology (AAD) says that sun protection should begin in infancy and continue throughout life.

However, the AAD warns, “It may only take 15 minutes of midday summer sun to burn a fair-skinned (child).” Dr. Aundria Speropoulos, a pediatrician at Child Care Limited in Kansas City, MO, also warns parents, “Infant skin is more likely to burn in a short time. I have seen infants with second-degree burns (blisters) to their faces because the parent thought the baby would be safe on a cloudy day at a sibling’s soccer game.”

Consider these American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) Recommendations:

Younger than 6 months
Try to keep out of the sun. If complete shade is unavailable, use sunscreen on small areas of the body, such as the face and back the hands. (Light colored clothing that is tightly woven, covered strollers and sun umbrellas are also recommended.)

Older than 6 months
Apply (sunscreen) to all areas of the body, but be careful around the eyes.

What is SPF?

Dr. Trisha Prossick, a Shawnee Mission, KS dermatologist with American Dermatology Associates, says, “Sun protection factor (SPF) is a measure of protection against only UVB rays. It does not reflect protection against UVA; but both UVA and UVB are damaging to the skin.”

How Much Protection Is Enough?

“Most baby products on the market have an SPF greater than 30: The higher the SPF, the higher the UVB ray protection,” Speropoulos says. “Parents need to buy a product with ‘broad spectrum’ coverage, which means UVA and UVB ray protection. Products with a physical barrier such as zinc oxide or titanium dioxide offer even greater safety from the sun.”

Five young friends in swimming pool smilingApply and Reapply Sunscreen

Prossick suggests, “Sunscreens should be applied 20 to 30 minutes prior to sun exposure and should be reapplied after 2 hours or after any swimming. Even water resistant sunscreens lose efficacy in the water after 40 minutes and should be reapplied.”

Treatment for Sunburn

“Once you get the sunburn, you have done the damage, and there is not much to do other than alleviate the symptoms,” Prossick says. “Therefore, prevention is the best medicine. Tylenol or ibuprofen can help with the pain or discomfort.”

NOTE: Make sure to check with your medical provider for correct dosing and use the appropriate measuring device (i.e. manufacturer’s provided measuring cup or a medication syringe from the pharmacy).

Prossick also says, “Cool water or whole milk compresses can be applied for 20 minutes at a time to provide a cooling and soothing effect. If you choose to do the milk compresses, please wash it off afterwards. Moisturizers with or without aloe and over the counter hydrocortisone can also provide some relief.”

Recommended Products for Sensitive Skin

Speropoulos tells parents to look for “hypo-allergenic, fragrance and dye-free sunscreen. There are so many good choices these days, but I like Neutrogena baby, California baby or Aveeno baby.”

Are Darker Skin Tones Safe?

According to Mayo Clinic, “You need to use sunscreen even if you have darker skin pigment, tan easily and can tolerate longer periods of sun exposure without burning. The sun’s energy damages DNA of skin cells.”

The hardest part of protecting your child is remembering to get the sunscreen on the child and then reapplying at the correct time. A sunburn can take up to 24 hours to fully develop, so don’t think if you don’t see a pink tinge on your child, she is safe.

Finally, before you leave for your sun outing, don’t forget to check expiration dates on your sunscreens. They lose potency after expiration and will be ineffective for proper sun protection.

(previously posted on NML on 6/16/10)

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Happy Belated Earth Day

Just wanted to wish everyone a happy belated Earth Day! Here in Kansas City, there were festivals and tree hugging events and flower plantings galore. The lines at the flower stores were out of control; but people were just so gosh darn pleased to be holding their purchases, no one minded. All customers eyeing other’s carts full of vibrant colors and earthy smells.

While standing in line, smiling people were speaking of when to plant, how to plant, what to plant…I had one gal tell me that if I “didn’t start upping my manure usage, I might not be able to produce.” Now that sounded a tad personal to me, but I let it go, because she was so gosh darn pleased to be educating me.

Now as I write this, I have added a few flowers to the earth, enriched my soil, and am listening to the rain water my new flowers and fill my rain barrels. I love free water!

Actually, I spent some time educating my young children about the difference between free water and the kind you have to pay for. I think they got it and are glad THEY don’t have to pay for it. Educating our children about why Earth Day is so important is a new concept. They didn’t do this when I was a kid. We as adults are teaching ourselves and passing on tips and other gems to our offspring.

Here are my medical words of advice to share with your children:
1) Don’t drink from the rain barrel. The water landed on the roof, came through the gutters and how often do you sterilize your gutters?
2) Worms are fun, but not for eating or feeding to your siblings. Just toss them back into your compost pile and put them back to work!
3) Children, don’t eat the food scraps off the compost pile. There are better choices indoors in the kitchen. Just ask and adult for assistance…
4) When recycling glass, your children shouldn’t break the glass before sending it to the Ripple Glass company bins. It does make a cool noise, but is not fun to pull shards of glass out of any part of your body.
5) How many toddlers does it take to change an incandescent light bulb to a compact fluorescent bulb? None….keep your kids away from electrical devices!!!

I hope you all had a wonderful weekend outdoors! Don’t forget the sunscreen on the kids and keep babies under 6 months out of the sun entirely.

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