THERE’S NOTHING QUITE like a South African summer – and all the great family time that comes with it. Many of us are headed to an annual beach holiday or are planning a staycation around the pool at home. But before we mix sun, swimming and babies, let’s look at ways to ensure everyone has a fun, relaxing time.
There’s no doubt that the South African sun is amazing! But the stronger the rays, the stronger their effect on the skin. And because your little one’s skin is still developing, it’s very important to look after it in the summer sun.
“Just one blistering sunburn in childhood or adolescence more than doubles a person’s chances of developing skin cancer later in life,” warns the Cancer Association of South Africa (CANSA).
With a few tips and tricks, you can keep this from happening.
Limiting the amount of sun exposure your baby’s skin gets is first prize. This means staying in the shade or indoors – the younger the baby, the more important this is.
“Ideally, babies under three months should not be exposed to sunlight,” says Dr Larisse Badenhorst, general practitioner from the Well Family Practice in Bryanston.
“If you do have to go out, limit exposure to between 10am and 3pm, and dress your child in protective clothing with a wide-brimmed hat with back-flaps to protect her eyes, face and neck.
“This applies to babies and children of all ages,” Dr Badenhorst says.
Be wary of using sunscreen on a baby younger than six months. As CANSA points out, a baby’s skin is a lot more sensitive than that of toddlers and adults. This means that they are more likely to experience any side effects from the sunscreen, so it’s best to avoid using it if you can. As mentioned, avoiding direct sunlight and covering up is key for young babies.
For babies and children older than six months, however, using sunscreen is a must – every single day, whether you’re hitting the beach or not.
“You want to use a sunscreen of at least SPF 30 to 50 that protects against both UVA and UVB and is approved by CANSA, all of which you can see on the label,” Dr Badenhorst says. “Before you apply it all over, do a small patch test to see if your baby reacts to it. Then, always liberally apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outdoors, and reapply it often (every 30 minutes to an hour) and after every swim.”
Sometimes even the most careful prevention is not enough. “When you do realise that baby has burnt in the sun, it is important to take it seriously and treat it as soon as possible,” Dr Badenhorst says.
“Typically, sunburn is redness of the skin that can only be picked up about two to four hours after exposure. Pain and bad burns (with blistering) only peaks around 12 to 14 hours after exposure. This applies to all ages.”
Dr Badenhorst’s recommendations for treating sunburn:
-Give baby a cool bath, or apply cool compresses for 10 minutes about four times a day.
-Moisturise the skin while it is damp, such as after a bath, and continue this for a few days. Do not use petroleum based moisturisers or oil-based creams, so read the contents on the label first. You could use something soothing like aloe vera gel.
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