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Nanny’s Place Home Nanny's Notes Breastfeeding Corner For Parents Health and Safety Articles

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Color Their World - Safe! Articles on child health and safety, from Nanny's Place

Protect Your Baby From the Sun

Exposure to the sun is responsible for at least two thirds of all melanomas. In addition, this form of cancer is also linked to intermittent sun exposure. It has been estimated that 80% of a person’s lifetime sun damage takes place before he or she is 18 years old; most of this happens during the summer and in peak sun hours. Intermittent but intense sun exposure which results in sunburn increases your child's risk for developing melanoma later in life.

To protect your children and yourself from the sun, it’s best to do several things:

Avoid the Sun

If your baby is younger than six months, keep him out of direct sunlight. Use the shade of a tree, umbrella, stroller canopy or other object to protect him.

For adults and older children, avoid deliberate tanning with indoor or outdoor light.

Limit your exposure to the sun between 10 am and 4 pm, when the sun's rays are the strongest. Try to keep your baby out of the sun during these hours.

The sun’s damaging ultraviolet rays can bounce back from surfaces like sand, snow, or concrete; so be extra careful when on the beach or walking on a hot sidewalk.

And remember that most of the sun's rays can come through the clouds on an overcast day; use sun protection even when it’s cloudy.

Clothing and Accessories

Be sure to dress your baby in clothes made of tightly woven lightweight fabrics that cover her body. Long-sleeved shirts and pants are good, and cotton clothing is both cool and protective. Protect her face and ears by using a hat with a brim or bill, but make sure the bill is facing forward to shade her face.

(Not sure about how tight a fabric's weave is? Just hold the item up to a bright light source, and see how much light shines through. A tighter weave lets less light through, which is what you want.)

Remember to take care to protect the areas most often not protected: girls’ legs and boys’ and girls’ faces

Child-sized sunglasses with UV protection are also a good way to protect your child's eyes. Be sure to use sunglasses that block at least 99 percent of the sun's rays.


While the best way to protect your baby from the sun is to keep him in the shade and dress him in protective clothing, it is OK to use small amounts of sunscreen on babies younger than six months when exposure can’t be avoided. In August 1999 the American Academy of Pediatrics made a new recommendation on using sunscreen on small babies: This new policy says it is safe to use sunscreen on a baby younger than six months old if adequate clothing and sunscreen are not available. Previously it was advised not to use sunscreen, but there is no evidence that using small amounts on small areas of your baby’s skin is harmful.

For older children, be sure to test the sunscreen on your child’s back for a reaction before you apply it all over her body. Be very careful when you apply it around her eyes, and avoid her eyelids. If some does get into her eyes, wipe her hands and eyes clean with a damp cloth.

Your sunscreen
* should be water-resistant or waterproof
* have a protection factor (SPF) of at least 15
* be a broad-spectru sunscreen, which will screen out both ultraviolet B (UVB) and ultraviolet A (UVA) rays

Zinc oxide is a very effective sun block. You can use it for extra protection on places that are more apt to get burnt, such as the nose, cheeks, tops of the ears, and shoulders. Don’t use baby oil; it causes the skin to burn faster and offers no protection at all.

Apply sunscreens to dry skin 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Apply it generously to all areas of skin that are not covered by clothes and rub it in well. How much is enough? One ounce (enough to fill a shot glass) is recommended. (I don’t know what size of body. Since this information is from a general sun safety article, I would assume they mean an adult.) Be sure to apply enough to the face, ears, hands and arms; for a baby, make sure his face, nose, ears, feet and hands, and backs of his knees are adequately covered.

Use sunscreens every day if you are going to be in the sun for more than 20 minutes. Re-apply them every 2 hours or right after swimming or strenuous activities.

And remember: Sunscreens are for protection. You should not stay in the sun longer than you normally would just because you’re using one.

Sunburn is Dangerous

Sunburns can be very dangerous to a small child, so do everything you can to prevent this. If your baby is younger than one year old and is sunburned, contact your pediatrician immediately; this is an emergency situation. For older babies, contact your doctor if there is blistering, pain, or fever.

If despite your best efforts, your baby does get sunburned, replace lost fluids with juice or water. You may use cool water soaks to make her skin feel better but don’t use any medicated lotion unless your pediatrician recommends it. And be sure to keep her out of the sun until the burn is totally healed.

Information and recommendations in this article are complied from:
* The American Academy of Pediatrics article on sun safety
* The article, Children Need More Than Sunscreen At The Beach. (The complete study this article is based on is available on PEDIATRICS electronic pages at
* An article from 2000 Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology/MedscapeWire

The American Academy of Pediatrics offers a free brochure on sun safety for children. To receive this brochure, send a #10 self addressed, stamped envelope to: American Academy of Pediatrics, Dept. C- Fun in the Sun, PO Box 927, Elk Grove Village, IL 60009-0927. (You may want to check the web site first to see if you can just download a copy instead.)

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Last updated Sun, Jun 4, 2006

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