Sun fun safety for kids

Parents Victoria Baldwin and Brad MacAulay with their baby Oakley MacAulay, take some time out in the shade, while attending Rock of the Woods in July. - Peter W. Rusland/file
Parents Victoria Baldwin and Brad MacAulay with their baby Oakley MacAulay, take some time out in the shade, while attending Rock of the Woods in July.
— image credit: Peter W. Rusland/file

It isn't a stretch to say there isn't a parent in the world who wouldn't be horrified with the suggestion that they put their baby in the oven.

Yet that's exactly in effect what they're doing when they put a heavy blanket over their baby in the summer, to protect it from the sun.

"Moms think a (heavy) blanket over the baby helps," said Cindy Hoadley, pregnancy outreach worker with the Healthiest Babies Possible Program. "Actually, they're creating an oven."

The organization, which helps pregnant, at-risk moms, during their pregnancy and until their babies are six months old, routinely gives their clients a brochure on sun safety.

"We haven't seen a lot of information out there on this," program manager Rebecca Christofferson said. "It's a message that should go out there every year, so that new parents know about it."

A baby with a heavy blanket over them can end up with heat stroke, she said.

With the recent wave of warm weather in the Cowichan Valley, and more expected before the end of the summer, the tips are a timely reminder for all parents and caregivers.

Specific Tips For Babies Under a Year

- Babies are born with sensitive skin that's thinner than adult skin so it burns more easily. Keep babies out of direct sunlight either in a stroller with a hood or canopy, under an umbrella or in a heavily shaded spot.

- Avoid using heavy blankets to cover car seats or strollers, use one that allows air flow, cotton is good.

- Dress infants in loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs and put a sun hat on them with a wide brim.

- You can use sunscreen (see below) on babies under six months, but it's preferable to avoid the sun and use shade and clothing. Under six months, their skin is still developing and sensitive to the ingredients in sunscreen that blocks UV rays.

- For babies over six months or older, sunscreen may be applied to areas that are not covered by clothing like  the face and the backs of the hands. SPF 30 to 60 is best. Avoid the mouth and eye area when applying. If a baby does rub sunscreen into his eye, there's no need to panic. Sunscreen does not cause blindness, although it may sting a little.

- Look for a sunscreen product with an SPF of 30 or higher that also provides broad-spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB).

- Contact your pediatrician at once when a baby under the age of one year gets a sunburn – a severe sunburn is an emergency.

- Watch for heat stroke symptoms like: vomiting, fever, extreme fatigue, shaking and cold sweats. If you see these, take your baby to the hospital right away.

- Even children born to parents with deeply pigmented (dark) skin require maximum protection. Sunburns not only hurt and cause skin damage but they can also cause dehydration and fever.

Other Sun Safe Tips

- Sun burns can even happen on cloudy days. UV rays can go through clouds and glass.

-Sunrays bounce off surfaces like water, snow, cement and sand.

- Most people don't get enough vitamin D, researchers have found that it helps in preventing cancer. Make sure to give your baby some vitamin D drops.

- Unlike previous guidelines, that suggested you should avoid direct exposure between 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., they now suggest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

- Make sure everyone gets enough water. Pop, sugary drinks  and coffee are dehydrating so it's best to avoid them.

Sidebar: Choosing Between Spray Suncreen or Lotion For Your Child - Only if Over Six Months of Age

Consumer Reports Magazine says that the American Food and Drug Administration is taking a closer look at spray sunscreens.

Trish Calvo, health editor with the magazine said the organization is looking at sprays for two reasons: first, the effectiveness of the product because of concerns that when spraying, bodies aren't being totally covered and second because of risks of inhalation while spraying.

Unlike lotions, which are easier to see where applied, detecting where the spray has landed is harder.

CR reported inhaling the spray can irritate lungs and there is, "some potential concern," a cancer risk may be involved from inhaling.

Calvo said when applied correctly, sprays can be effective if the right amount is used and all the skin is covered.

The problem with sprays, she said, is that when the spray range is too wide, things other than the body might be sprayed, like the air. And when the spray is too thin, all parts of the body might not be covered.

To maximize coverage, spray into your hands and then rub into your body. Or use a lotion.

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