Infants Particularly Vulnerable to the Sun
As summer approaches, remember that infants' skin is particularly vulnerable to skin cancer and sun damage.
"The ultimate goal of sun protection is to protect all parts of the skin exposed to the sun by using a variety of techniques, including sunscreen in infants older than 6 months," researchers led by Amy Paller, a dermatologist at the Feinberg School of Medicine of Northwestern University in Chicago, report in the July issue of Pediatrics.
WebMD reports children younger than 6 months should avoid the sun, and older children should avoid the midday sun and wear sun-protective clothing, wide-brimmed hats and sunglasses when they're outside.
"Sunscreens for infants must be non-irritating to the skin and eyes and have aesthetic qualities that encourage effective application by caregivers," the researchers write.
According to WebMD, many parents like sunscreens that leave a temporary film. That way, they can be sure the child is thoroughly coated. That's particularly important for infants.
"Newborns, infants and toddlers have skin that is continuing to develop," New York City dermatologist Doris Day tells WebMD. That's why pigments and moles don't always show up at birth. Their skin is still evolving and maturing and it is really important to protect it."
WebMD reports Day recommends keeping infants and toddlers indoors when the sun is strongest -- usually from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. -- and choosing clothes with built-in ultraviolet protection. And don't spare the sunscreen.
Sunscreens should be heavy on the zinc and/or titanium, she tells WebMD.
"These are more opaque and sit on skin rather than getting absorbed," she says.
Also, WebMD reports, zinc and titanium don't irritate the eyes as much because they tend to stay in place.
"Infant and toddlers' skin barrier protection is quite immature," Roya Samuels, a pediatrician at the Steven and Alexandra Cohen Children's Medical Center of New York in New Hyde Park, tells WebMD. "A child's skin has structural quality that makes it more vulnerable to the effects of UV [ultraviolet] radiation, and this can result in an increased risk of later skin cancer."
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