Keep Your Baby Sun-Safe This Summer

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Dermatologist Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou with Advanced Dermatology explains sun dangers and offers tips to protect infants’ skin.

Dr. Kaleroy Papantoniou

Parents really need to be extra attentive about sun protection for their babies. So many effective forms of protection exist that there’s no excuse for an infant to get sunburned.

As spring approaches and we all start to enjoy the sun’s warmer rays, babies – who are especially vulnerable to the damaging effects of ultraviolet (UV) light – need vigilant care from their parents to protect them from these dangers, according to Kaleroy Papantoniou, MD, of Advanced Dermatology P.C.

Babies’ skin is thinner than that of an older child, meaning it burns much more easily. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, research shows that nearly a quarter of infants become sunburned or tanned in their first summer, with more than half getting burned or tanned while they’re still under 2 years old. This can lead to a much higher risk of developing melanoma later in life, since sustaining 5 or more sunburns in youth raises the lifetime risk of this deadly skin cancer by 80%.

“Parents really need to be extra attentive about sun protection for their babies,” says Dr. Papantoniou. “So many effective forms of protection exist that there’s no excuse for an infant to get sunburned. But it’s also important to remember that most sun damage stems from being in the sun while going about your daily life – not from sitting on the beach.”

Sunburn signs & symptoms
While babies can become sunburned after just 15 minutes of sun exposure, the signs and symptoms may not appear until 6 to 12 hours later, Dr. Papantoniou says. These include:

  •     Red, warm and itchy skin (for mild sunburn)
  •     Widespread burning (for severe sunburn)
  •     Blistered skin
  •     Painful skin
  •     Fever or chills
  •     Nausea
  •     Swollen face
  •     Dehydration

Home treatment for a baby with mild sunburn includes cool baths and putting aloe vera gel or cool compresses on burned areas. But severe sunburn on an infant requires a more emphatic response and is treated like any other serious burn. “Call your baby’s pediatrician or get emergency medical care,” she says. “Babies can end up with grave or even life-threatening problems from too much ultraviolet light. It’s no joke.”

Tips to prevent sun damage in your baby
To avoid such consequences, Dr. Papantoniou offers tips to stop sun damage in its tracks. These include:

  • Limiting your baby’s time in the sun between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., or trying to keep her out of the sun entirely in that time period. “This is a simple avoidance technique that works because that’s when the sun’s rays are strongest,” Dr. Papantoniou says.
  • Dressing your baby in a wide-brimmed hat and baby sunglasses (if he keeps them on!). “Look for sunglasses with 99% UV protection,” she recommends.
  • Dressing baby in lightweight clothing that covers the arms and legs. “More and more clothing is being sold now that offers built-in UV protection, and babies and kids can even take a dip in the pool in these pieces,” she says.
  • Slathering babies over 6 months in sunscreen on all visible skin areas. “Buy broad spectrum sunscreen that blocks both UV-A and UV-B light,” Dr. Papantoniou says. “These are the most damaging rays. The SPF, or sun protection factor, of any sunscreen should be 15 or higher.”
  • Applying sunscreen to baby’s skin at least 30 minutes before heading outdoors, since the sunscreen needs time to soak in.
  • Reapplying sunscreen at least every 2 hours, and more often if baby spends time in the water or sweats profusely.

Dr. Papantoniou adds that pediatricians recommend vitamin D supplementation to babies who are breastfed. Mothers should confirm with their pediatricians to ensure dietary vitamin D is adequate. “With a little effort and forethought, babies can safely be outdoors with their families on glorious, sunny days,” Dr. Papantoniou says. “But to make this happen, parents can’t drop the ball when it comes to protecting their little ones from the sun.”

Bio: Kaleroy Papantoniou, M.D., F.A.A.D. is board-certified in dermatology and specializes in all areas of medical dermatology for adults and children, the prevention and treatment of skin cancer, cosmetic dermatology and laser surgery.

Advanced Dermatology P.C. and the Center for Laser and Cosmetic Surgery (New York & New Jersey) is one of the leading dermatology centers in the nation, offering highly experienced physicians in the fields of cosmetic and laser dermatology as well as plastic surgery and state-of-the-art medical technologies.

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