Wednesday, April 06, 2005

Baby and the summer sun

Summer brings sunshine, heat, and outdoor activities for the whole family. However, remember that babies need a little extra protection in the summertime.

Babies have extremely sensitive skin. They often sunburn very easily and should be protected from direct sunlight. While it is ideal to keep babies in the shade at all times, sometimes that simply isn't possible. Previously, pediatricians suggested babies should not use sunscreen before the age of six months. Recently the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has issued statements indicating that it is okay to use sunscreen. Make sure to use brands formulated for babies since they are often gentler for sensitive skin or check with your doctor for a recommendation. Even if you are using sunscreen, keep baby under an umbrella or shade. If you take baby to the beach, pool or just fill a wading pool in the backyard, make sure that you keep baby shaded as much as possible – there are some great floats and wading pools that even have built in shades -- and reapply sunscreen frequently.

It is also possible for babies to get overheated or even get heat stroke. Make sure to keep your baby in loose fitting clothing that breathes. Lightweight cotton such as seersucker is ideal. On a hot day in the house, strip baby down to only her diaper.

Make sure never to leave baby in an area that gets uncomfortably hot or to set baby on a surface that has been heating in the sun. Check strollers, car seats and play equipment before setting your baby on them to ensure they are not too hot since all of these can hold enough heat to burn skin.

If baby is in hot weather for a long period, you may need to supplement her breast milk or formula with a little bit of water. While under normal circumstances she will get all the liquid she needs from breast milk or formula, this is not always the case in hot weather. If your baby gets lethargic or listless, contact your doctor immediately. Dehydration is extremely dangerous in babies.

In addition to being aware of dangers from the sun and heat, make sure to protect your baby from other summer dangers. Insect bites can carry dangerous diseases as well as being uncomfortable; talk to your doctor about what repellants you can safely use with your baby. Water safety is also critical. With the added exposure to summer water fun, make sure you are vigilant in watching your baby around any body of water and never leave water standing in pools or backyard containers or toys.

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