Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Baby sun smarts Shade, protective clothing, sunblock key to protecting tender skin

Baby sun smarts

Shade, protective clothing, sunblock key to protecting tender skin

The Ottawa Citizen

Nine-month-old Gryffudd Carter is well-protected from the sun in a solarweave hat by Puffin Gear and a turquoise "rashie" by Banz.

Photograph by: Kirstin Endemann, The Ottawa Citizen

If your baby is under six months, nine months, or 15 years, the best sun protection you can give them is shade, says Dr. Cheryl Rosen.

"Truth of the matter is, until a child can walk you should be able to keep them completely out of the sun," says the national director of the Canadian Dermatology Association's sun protection program.

"As soon as they can walk, you have lost control forever." That's when covering them up and smearing on sunblock becomes important.

UPF-rated baby swimwear, called rashies after the rash vests worn by surfers, is a popular summer choice, but Rosen says a simple swimsuit worn with t-shirt, hat and sunblock can be sufficient, so long as the t-shirt is dark in colour and tightly woven.

And contrary to popular belief, Rosen says there is no reason to not put sunblock on children, even ones under the age of six months.

Rosen has tried unsuccessfully to find any clinical evidence sunblock actually harms a young child. Numerous trials have never shown any harmful impact from sunblock, though some of the chemicals are absorbed into the body, she says.

Concerned parents might want to choose sunblocks with zinc oxide or titanium dioxide as the active ingredient, as these stay on the skin.

"Out of the sun is best, but if you are taking them to the lake or for a stroll then cover them up and put some sunblock on their hands and face."

She's most concerned that studies show parents are good at caring for their baby's health for the first year, then "by the second year have slacked off completely. You have to keep going."

And teach by example.

"Parents are the role model -- and grandparents, too, as it is never too late," says Rosen.

"If they see you do it, it will become just what they do when they go into the sun."