Summer is possibly the most enjoyable season as a parent, both because we tend to have more free time to spend with our kids and because there is an endless amount of memorable experiences to share with them. But along with the fun, summer brings extra safety concerns as well. Babies in particular are in danger of suffering the effects of too much sun, so how do moms like me keep our littlest people safe on all the family outings? Because keeping babies cool in extreme heat has to be a top priority.
Santa Monica pediatrician Dr. Daniel Ganjian agrees there are important precautions parents must remember when taking a baby out in the sun. In an interview with Romper, Ganjian says, "In general, try not to stay outside when temperatures are over 85 degrees. The rule of thumb is if you are not comfortable outside, then neither is your child."
Many of us live in climates that exceed that temperature in the summer, so families would be wise to schedule most of their outdoor time in the coolest parts of the day: Either first thing in the morning or late in the afternoon. Staying indoors between the hours of 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. is ideal.
There are, of course, legitimate reasons to avoid the sweltering heat with your baby; sunburns, heat rash, and dehydration are not risks that any parent wants to take lightly. But sometimes, life happens. When going outside in the heat of the day is unavoidable, Ganjian recommends keeping your baby in shaded areas and doing your best to minimize their exposure to direct sunlight. Dressing them in light colored, long-sleeved clothing — particularly in breezy fabrics like cotton or linen — will keep them cool while also protecting their delicate skin.
When it comes to the question of sunscreen, Ganjian says, "Babies over 6 months should use a sunblock with SPF 30, which only works when reapplied every two hours and whenever coming out of the water. The skin is extra sensitive before 6 months, so avoid all creams and sunblocks until then. However, if you cannot avoid exposing your child to direct sunlight, then also apply the sunblock to your newborn. Make sure to always use a hypoallergenic sunblock."
Almost equally as important as sunscreen, according to Ganjian, is providing your baby with plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. If your infant is exclusively breastfeeding, be sure to offer to nurse him frequently. If she is taking water or diluted juice, have a sippy cup or bottle on hand at all times. Sometimes distractions cause little ones to forget their thirst, so the burden is on the parent to offer sips as often as possible.
According to Ganjian, "80 percent of our total lifetime sun exposure happens before the age of 18 years old, meaning children get a lot of sun. To prevent future skin disease, sun protection must start in childhood, ideally from birth, as UV radiation can cause a lot of damage."
Moms and dads should be aware of the signs of overheating so that we can take immediate action should our little ones be too effected by their time in the sun. The most well known red flags to keep an eye out for include fevers, fewer wet diapers, especially cranky behavior, or acting overly tired. If you observe these signs in your baby after sun exposure, Ganjian recommends giving them plenty of fluids, putting them in a lukewarm bath, and giving your pediatrician a call for further instruction.
Summer is an exciting time for families, and babies shouldn't have to miss out on the fun. With a little planning and attention, parents can make sure that our tinies stay safe and healthy on every sunny adventure.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.