Skin-sational, Baby!

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Watch out for sunburn and other potentially skin-damaging hazards this summer.

The first sign of summer inevitably sends everyone outside to enjoy the relaxing season. Your baby’s first summer will be one of discovery and entertainment as he experiences nature’s beauty for the first time. While children are busy building sand castles and cooling off in the pool, parents encounter a new set of potential safety obstacles for their young children. Knowing what to prevent and how to implement easy steps to keep your kids safe will insure everyone has a summer to remember.

Very young children are slightly more susceptible to a few of summer’s side effects. A few common situations to prepare for are sun damage from excessive exposure to the sun, heat exhaustion and insect bites. Your baby has not learned how to tell if he feels dehydrated or not to touch a bumblebee hovering over colorful flowers. While spending an afternoon outdoors is appealing, it means that parents need to take a few precautions.

What to Pack

Whether you’re headed for an amusement park, beach or extended car ride, pack a summer safety kit to keep in the diaper bag or car. Include waterproof sunscreen, antiseptic, water resistant bandages, sterile wipes, waterproof insect repellant, bottled water, disposable ice packs and a spare pair of sunglasses. These additions to your array of regular items will certainly come in handy this summer.

Sun Safety

One of the most important steps is liberally applying water resistant sunscreen. Young children have delicate skin that is vulnerable to painful sun damage. Even when the sun doesn’t feel warm enough to cause sunburn, many children develop over exposure reactions from less than one hour in the sun.

Try to schedule activities that include breaks and ample shade during the peak sun hours in the middle of the afternoon. If you’re going to be outside all day, remember to cover your baby with the top of the stroller or baby carrier.

Since they have fine hair, it isn’t always easy to apply sunscreen to the top of your baby’s head. If you and your baby are planning a day at the pool, bring along an extra cap to protect the top of her head. She’ll be stylish in an adorable sun bonnet that also protects her sensitive skin from sunburn.

Sunglasses offer eye protection and allow her curious eyes to wander more comfortably without the glare of the sun. Wearing aqua shoes is an inexpensive option to preventing another common accident – a stubbed toe or bits of broken glass and other sharp objects that may be hiding in the sand or rocks on a beach’s shoreline.

Take a Load Off

A long day spent soaking in the sun is both physically and mentally draining for your family. Staying on schedule and promoting good nutrition and proper rest periods or naps will increase everyone’s enjoyment. When your baby seems over stimulated, some time in your arms or the stroller offers a good chance for them to refocus and be ready to appreciate the balance of the activities.

Taking along a portable crib to set up in a quiet shady area will also help your baby stay on her sleep schedule and be refreshed for the rest of the day. It isn’t always easy to eat a balanced meal when you’re enjoying a day outside away from home. Packing easy to carry snacks and sticking to the feeding schedule will maintain continuity for your baby and help her to stay energized while playing outside. After a good lunch and a refreshing nap in the fresh air, she’ll be ready to explore the rest of the day outdoors.


Things That Fly

Insects are one of the season’s most annoying visitors. Gnats, ticks, mosquitos and stinging insects all present a challenge for parents. Several of these uninvited guests are present during the day as well as in the evening. Babies have not yet developed the coordination or insight to brush away flying insects and become easy targets.

Unfortunately parents often do not know if their child will have an adverse allergic reaction to a bite or sting until after they have encountered the insect. Applying an insect repellent that your pediatrician or pharmacist deems safe gives your baby an added measure of protection. Because many repellents fade, check the label for information on reapplying after extended wear or time spent in the water.

Explore the Senses … Safely

Your baby will naturally look to taste, touch and feel all that nature has to offer. As you encourage your child’s exploration, select a few safe objects for them to experience. Touching flower petals, colorful leaves and even worms will appeal to her adventurous nature and delight the senses. Letting your baby watch sand fall through her fingers and wiggle her toes in fresh cut grass or a refreshing pool will encourage her love of nature.

Taking these safety measures will help create fun filled summer memories to last a lifetime. You’ll also develop a foundation for safe summer habits. Your baby’s first summer will be full of exploration and discovery. As she finds every blade of grass that tickles her legs interesting, you’ll have confidence that she’s safe as well as happy.

Gina Roberts-Grey is a mother, freelance writer and licensed clinical social worker.


SUN SAFETY TIPS

If your family spends a lot of time outdoors, keep these helpful suggestions in mind.

  1. Avoid unnecessary sun exposure, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., the peak hours for harmful ultraviolet (UV) radiation.
  2. When outdoors, use sunscreens rated SPF 15 or higher. Apply them liberally, uniformly and frequently.
  3. When exposed to sunlight, wear protective clothing such as long pants, long-sleeved shirts, broad-brimmed hats and UV-protective sunglasses.
  4. Stay away from artificial tanning devices.
  5. Teach your children good sun protection habits at an early age. The damage that leads to adult skin cancers starts in childhood.
  6. Examine your skin head to toe at least once every three months.

Source: the Skin Cancer Foundation

JUST FOR BABIES

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AA) recommends that babies younger than 6 months avoid sun exposure altogether. To avoid sunburn, parents should dress their infant in lightweight long pants, long sleeves and a brimmed hat. If shade isn’t available while outdoors with an infant, it’s OK to apply a small amount of sunscreen to the baby’s face and the back of his hands. However, the AAP suggests consulting with your pediatrician before doing so.

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