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Sun Safety for Babies

Here's a great piece that breaks down how to protect your baby from getting sun damage.

There is nothing cuter than a baby sporting miniature shades and playing happily in the sun. But unless your little one is at least six months old, he shouldn't even be exposed to direct sunlight because his skin isn't thick enough to take it yet. And even at six months, you should still take necessary precautions.

"Babies will invariably get some sun in their car seat or in their stroller, but what we're trying to do is prevent sun damage," says Elsie Mark, M.D., an associate clinical professor of dermatology at the University of California San Diego.

Early childhood sunburns have been directly linked to an increased risk for developing melanoma as an adult. Other skin conditions that can result from overexposure to the sun include premature wrinkling and aging. The wisest thing you can do, even for the tiniest of tots, is to cover them up, whether it's with light-colored clothing, hats, sunglasses or sunblock.

In addition, try these common sense tips for protecting your baby in the sun:

Take the Sundial Approach
When you go outside is as important as what you do once you're out there, and Mark says a good rule is to watch your shadow.

If your shadow appears to be shorter than you, the sun is too intense and you should save that outdoor stroll for later in the day. Also, some newspapers list a daily UV Index that rates the sun's intensity on a scale of 115 (usually available during the summer months). To play it safe, you should stay indoors or in the shade when the UV Index in your area hits seven, according to Dr. Sophie J. Balk chairperson of the American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Environmental Health, and professor of pediatrics at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York.

Generally, the sun is at its highest and hottest from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m. during the warmer months in the year. If you want to be out and about with your baby, why not make the most of the hours earlier in the day when the sun isn't as intense and when your baby is usually awake and alert?

Dress for Sun Success
"Protective clothing and hats with a brim are your first line of defense against the sun," Balk says. You can find UV-protective apparel for your baby, and while certainly appropriate, it is expensive and not really necessary.

Light-colored cotton clothing with a tight weave will do the trick. You should dress your baby in lightweight long-sleeve shirts and long pants even in the heat of summer. Hold the clothes up to a lamp. They're more likely to provide protection if not too much light comes through.

Opt for light-colored clothing and hats which will reflect the sun's rays and help keep your baby cooler. Avoid dark-colored clothing which tends to absorb heat.

Obviously you can't cover every inch of your baby's skin with clothing (unless you want to swaddle her like a mummy) so the better alternative is to cover any exposed areas face, hands, neck with sunblock every time you go outside.

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