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Sunscreen for Babies

Sunscreen for Babies

Babies are particularly susceptible to the effects of the sun. Sun damage to a baby's skin may result in severe sunburn and may lead to an increased risk for skin cancer later in life. Growing evidence suggests that sun damage is cumulative throughout life with most of the impact occurring during the early years. This does not mean that you and your baby must always stay indoors. Rather, you should learn how to significantly reduce the risks of the sun:

  • The best way to decrease sun damage to your baby is to avoid direct exposure to the sun. This can be accomplished by the use of protective clothing. This should include a hat with a wide brim (at least three inches), to protect the face, ears and neck. The clothing itself should be loose fitting and made with a fabric that is tightly woven. It's also important to know that wet fabrics afford decreased protection.

  • When going out at any time, even if you're not going to the beach or the park, you should also be careful to keep your baby protected from the sun. Use a canopy for the stroller and an umbrella for the beach or park. Keep in mind, though, that sun is reflected from many surfaces including sand, cement, water, and snow, and even when shaded your child will not be fully protected.

  • Avoid direct sun between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Take precautions even on cold or cloudy days and in spring or fall, since the rays of the sun can still be strong enough to damage your baby's skin.

  • Sunscreen should be used when your infant may sunburn. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that in children below the age of 6 months, sunscreen should be applied in small amounts to areas of the body that are not protected by clothing. At other ages sunscreen should be applied to all susceptible areas in an even layer. Sunscreen should be at least 15 SPF (Sun Protection Factor) and should provide protection for both UVA and UVB (look at the label). It should be reapplied every two hours, more frequently with profuse sweating, swimming or toweling. Remember to apply sunscreen thirty to forty-five minutes before sun exposure.
Although sunlight is recognized as an important source of vitamin D production, studies show that the use of sunscreen does not result in vitamin D deficiency. Only ten to fifteen minutes of natural sunlight, two to three times a week, are required to produce sufficient quantities of the vitamin.

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About The Author

Lita Aeder. M.D. is Acting Director for the Division of General Pediatrics at Maimonides Medical Center; and Assistant Professor of the State University of New York Health Science Center at Brooklyn.

The content on these pages is provided as general information only and should not be substituted for the advice of your physician.


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