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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.

Become Sunscreen Savvy
Once upon a time, doctors didn't recommend using sunblocks on babies under six months old. But according to Dr. Balk, no studies have shown any harmful long-term effects of using sunblocks on babies so young. In fact, Balk says, the American Academy of Pediatrics now claims it is reasonable to use sunscreen on small areas of an infant's skin that aren't covered by clothing.

Even so, you may want to stick with the more natural blocks, made simply of the mineral zinc oxide (you can now buy a micronized version which won't show up white) rather than their chemical counterparts. And always test for allergic reactions on a small patch of skin before you slather it everywhere.

And remember to use sunscreen year-round on your baby whenever you know you're going to be out in the sun, even if it's just to drive to the store. The sunlight coming through most car windows is strong enough to tan, even burn, delicate skin. Consider purchasing a car window shade as well.

Baby's Got it Made in the Shade
You may not have to shell out the extra bucks for UV-protective clothing, but you definitely should dig deep for a good pair of sunglasses for your infant.

Shop carefully and don't go with just any brand. Unfortunately, many baby shades are more decorative than functional and, says Lynn Drake, professor and chair of the department of dermatology at the University of Oklahoma, " Unless the glasses have a UVA filter, they're more dangerous than nothing at all."

The lenses in a baby's eyes are very sensitive and don't contain the light-absorbing chromophores that will eventually tint the whites of her eyes as she grows older. Continued exposure to UVA and UVB rays also ups the risk for cataracts later on in life. As Drake explains it, "Without these chromophores, the light goes in and whacks the retina."

Low-quality, non-filtered sunglasses will reduce the glare from sunlight, but they will also cause a baby's pupils to dilate and let in more potentially damaging light. Drake recommends that parents buy only UVA protective sunglasses for their babies. Most quality sunglasses will be labeled UVA protective.

In the Case of Sunburn
Even with the best intentions, you can come home from an afternoon of shopping with a red little baby. "If they're very fair, they can burn in fifteen minutes," says Drake. Should this happen to your infant, don't panic, but do take him directly to a tepid, not cold, bath or you'll shock him. The bath will help soothe the sting of sunburn and to keep his skin hydrated. You may also want to administer a little Infant's Tylenol as well.

Aloe vera gel can also relieve the pain of sunburn and help to rehydrate the skin. It's cool and clear and won't stain clothing or bedding, and it's completely safe. Call your pediatrician if you see any blisters and take him in right away.

Finally, use the same sun sensible tips to protect your skin as well:

  • Use moisturizers and lotions daily that contain SPF 15 or higher to protect your skin.

  • Wear a wide-brimmed hat to protect your face for time spent in the sun, either gardening or walking with baby.

  • Buy an umbrella to use on your deck or patio, and use a portable umbrella at the beach or park.

  • Wear protection even on overcast days. On cloudy days, damaging UVA and UVB rays can still burn and damage your skin.

  • Invest in a good pair of UVA/UVB protective sunglasses, especially if you have light-colored eyes.

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