During the steamy days of summer, the beach, pool and playground seem like the perfect place to enjoy some family fun. But between packing up the bathing suits and picnic, but sun safety is often an afterthought and can sometimes seem like more trouble than it’s worth. After all, what’s the point if baby will lick off their sun screen? But with Latinos right behind non-Hispanic whites in terms of skin cancer rates, it’s more important than ever for Hispanics to protect themselves from the sun’s dangerous rays. We spoke to Erika Cebreros, deputy editor at BabyCenter en Español and Alberto Dr. Gedissman, MD, MMM, CPE, FAAP, about tips to keep your baby and young children safe from the dangers of sunburn and heatstroke.
Sun safety for babies
Fun in the sun
Due to their delicate skin, babies are extremely sensitive to sun and can quickly suffer from sunburn. Try to keep baby out of the sun until they are at least six months old. It’s also important to schedule playtime around the sun’s strongest rays, which are between 10 and 4 o’clock, says Dr. Gedissman. Cloudy or cool out? The sun’s ultraviolet (UV) rays can damage the skin year round, so it’s especially important to apply sun screen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15 to your baby every two hours. You’ll also need a bottle handy during water excursions, as sunscreen should be reapplied to both babies and young children immediately before and after play.
Keep your baby covered
Cute sunglasses for babies are more than just a fashion accessory – they’re a necessity, so have baby rock the sunglasses and a hat for protection against the sun. If that’s not an option, apply sunscreen to the thin skin of the scalp and be sure to apply sunscreen to your child’s nose, ears and face. Cebreros also suggest keeping your baby under the shade of a tree or umbrella whenever possible, and using an outdoor sun tent to help keep your baby protected against the sun’s bright rays. Don’t forget to apply sunscreen to the back of their neck, backs of hands and the tops of their feet – sensitive areas that can be particular susceptible to sunburn.
Choose the right sunscreen
With dozens of varieties of sunscreen on the market, choosing the perfect formula for baby can seem daunting. Cebreros recommends a physical/chemical-free sunscreen that only have titanium and zinc oxide over formulas that contain chemicals that can be harmful when absorbed by the skin. “You want something that’s non-toxic, because face it: babies will try to eat off their sunscreen,” says Cebreros, who speaks from experience as a mom. You’ll also want to test your baby’s skin for allergies, so test a dab of sunscreen on the arm and watch for an allergic reaction. And remember: expensive brands don’t necessarily work better than less expensive versions, so look for chemical-free varieties and make sure they are labeled “broad-spectrum” to block out UVB and UVA rays. Last but not least: always check the expiration dates of sunscreen you may already have in the house before use.
Sun screen tips for kids
With older kids heading to day camp during the summers, it’s extremely important to apply sunscreen on your child at least 30 minutes before they head out for the day. Struggling to keep junior still during the task? Make the routine fun, suggests Cebreros, with songs and rhymes that will make application entertaining for the kids. The same goes for those all-important wide-brimmed floppy hats and sunglasses: allow children to pick their own accessories with their favorite cartoon characters or colors, as that will make it more likely for the kids to wear them away from home.
Pack it up
If you won’t be around while your child is on their day trip, make sure to add sunscreen to their backpack along with plenty of fluids to keep them hydrated. Other bag essentials: long-sleeved, lightweight clothes with UV protection, which offers added safety against the sun while on the go. After all, says Dr. Gedissman, “the effects of the sun radiation at an early age are responsible for skin cancers at a later age.