Babies, Sunscreen and the Heat

As summer approaches, you may be wondering what is safe for your little ones: Can my baby wear sunscreen? How hot is too hot? When can my baby go to the beach or pool? And more.  Our friends over at Coastal Pediatric Associates helped us out with this post and all answers reflect medical advice from Dr. Elizabeth Milliron who is at the Mount Pleasant office. Dr. Milliron had triplets in October and now taking patients part time. Learn more about Dr. Milliron here.

How old should my baby be before they wear sunscreen?

Babies under 6 months old should avoid being out in the direct sunlight if at all possible.  Try to keep them in the shade of a tree, umbrella, or canopy on a stroller or car seat if you can.  If unable to avoid the sun exposure wear light protective clothing so that their skin is not exposed and apply a small amount of sunscreen on their face/exposed areas.  The most sensitive and generally best for babies is one with zinc oxide.  Babies over 6 months should wear a sunscreen that has UVA and UVB protection (sometimes listed as broad spectrum) with an SPFof at least 30 to all exposed areas. Use caution around the eyes as babies will tend to rub this area and it could cause some irritation.  Apply sunscreen 15 minutes before going outside and make sure to reapply every 2 hours.  To help avoid any sunburn choose times of the day when the sun is least strong – before 10am and after 4pm, wear a hat that shades the face and neck, and practice good sun safety yourself to set a good example for your children.

How young is too young to spend the day at the pool or the beach?

Babies under 2-3 months of age still have immature immune systems and can get serious infections easier than older children, so try to avoid crowded places such as a busy pool or beach.  When babies are older taking them to the pool/beach for short periods of time is fine.  If possible avoid the times when the sun is strongest – from 10am-4pm.  Continue to follow sun safety guidelines, watch their hydration status, and follow water safety guidelines.  Always stay within arms length of your baby around any body of water, only use approved flotation devices while in the water, and avoid any distractions such as cell phones or computers as it only takes a few seconds for a baby to drown.

In the heat should I be concerned about my baby being dehydrated? Should I give them water in a bottle?

Infants can get dehydrated faster than adults so it is important when outside in the summer to be aware of their hydration status.  Watching the amount of wet diapers your baby is making can help you monitor their hydration status.  Offer infants additional nursing sessions or more frequent bottles when outside in the heat for prolonged periods.  Babies under 6 months of age should not be given water – their kidneys are still too immature to handle straight water and in some cases too much water can even cause a small infant to have seizures.  There is enough water in the formula or breast milk to keep them hydrated.  After 6 months it is ok to give small amounts of water and it is optimal to give this from a sippy/straw cup if they will use it, however their main source of fluid should still be breast milk/formula.

When is it too hot for my baby to go outside?

Babies get overheated more quickly than adults, they don’t sweat as much, have trouble regulating their temperature, and they take longer to adjust to temperature extremes.  If it is uncomfortably hot for you to be outside its likely too hot for your baby.  When it’s very hot outside try to keep outings short, take breaks in a cool air-conditioned place, dress your baby in light clothes (usually a cotton onesie without shoes is fine), and monitor your baby for signs that they are getting overheated.  These can include hot flushed skin, rash, and sweating.  Babies can get heat exhaustion and heat stroke and parents should seek medical care immediately if you see any signs of these which include fever, vomiting, confusion, flushed or cool clammy skin, and unresponsiveness.

Again, thank you to Coastal Pediatric Associates and Dr. Milliron for this information.

As always please as specific questions to your medical provider.

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