Caring for Your Baby in Summer
A baby’s skin is very different from that of an adult. It is not only softer and smoother, but also delicate and more sensitive as it is 20-30% thinner than an adult’s skin.
Therefore, it is important to protect your baby’s sensitive skin from the sun’s harmful rays in the scorching heat of the summer.
Here are a few tips for skincare during summers:
Use a Generous Amount of Sunscreen on Babies
Babies above 6 months and up to 2 years of age must not be taken outdoors in scorching heat between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. When they are taken outdoors, sunscreen must be applied generously on all exposed areas. Do not miss out any areas, especially hairlines and ear lobes which are usually ignored. Be careful while applying the sunscreen near the eyes and the mouth. Use a zinc-containing sunscreen with SPF 15 or higher and keep the following rules in mind:
Sunscreen must be applied at least 30 minutes before going outdoors so that it gets absorbed into the skin.
Sunscreen must be reapplied every 2 hours and after every dip in the water as it wears off.
Sunscreen must be applied every day, whether it is sunny or not, as UV rays are present even on cloudy days.
Avoid Unnecessary Exposure to Sunlight
Babies under 6 months of age should not be exposed to direct sunlight. The risk of sunburn at this age outweighs any potential benefits of sun exposure. UV rays, the sun’s harmful rays, can easily cause sunburns on the baby’s sensitive skin. Sunburns can be very painful and itchy for the baby. They can even have long-term implications as studies have shown a correlation between sunburns in childhood and the risk of melanoma (a kind of skin cancer).
In case it is unavoidable and you have to take your baby out, use a wide-brimmed hat to shield the baby’s face and a long sleeved cotton dress to reduce the exposed area. Put the top down on the stroller. Apply sunscreen in very small quantities only on the exposed areas.
In the case of a sunburn, it is advisable to cool down the affected area by sponging with cool water and then soothing the skin with an aloe-vera gel or a petroleum jelly.
Moisturize and Hydrate
The surface area-to-weight ratio of babies is way more than that of adults. This is the reason why they are more prone to dehydration due to water loss from their skin. It is very important to keep babies hydrated in summers.
Breastfed babies do not need water, but must be breastfed more often.
Formula-fed babies may be given boiled or cooled water in between feeds.
6-8 pale, wet nappies a day is an indicator of good hydration in a baby.
Baby’s skin needs moisture too. Use natural oils or baby oils/moisturizers which are fragrance-free and alcohol-free. Moisturize the baby’s skin twice a day to keep it hydrated and supple.
Be careful with the soap you use for the baby. Ordinary soaps have a pH around 8-9 and they make the skin lose its moisture. Do not use soaps that have a nice smell and fragrance as they contain harsh chemicals. Use mild soaps containing natural ingredients and oils which do not contain dyes and fragrances.
Use Cotton Garments
Though it is tempting to dress up babies in fancy and frilly dresses, it must be remembered that dresses made up of synthetic material do not let the baby’s skin breathe and may cause heat rash or prickly heat. Heat rash may also be caused by over-enthusiastic dressing up of babies in too many clothes. It results from the blockage of sweat glands which get swollen and manifest as tiny red dots on the neck, chest, shoulders, and armpits. The condition can be very itchy.
In the case of a heat rash, cool down the baby with a bath and let the skin air dry instead of using towels, as rubbing may irritate the skin further. Dress up your baby in loose fitting cotton garments which allow the skin to breathe and refrain from layering the baby in too many clothes. Heat rash usually heals on its own in a few days, but it is important to see the doctor in case of fever, pustules (pus-filled bumps) and swelling as these could indicate a bacterial or yeast infection.
Keep Babies Safe from Insect Bites
Summers also bring with them creepy, crawly insects that thrive in abundance in the season. While adults may not even notice an insect bite, it can be a big deal for the baby’s sensitive skin.
Mosquito bites can be soothed with calamine lotion. Calamine lotion can be used in cases of other insect bites as well after washing the area with soap and water. Application of ice also helps. Certain insect stings may trigger an allergic reaction, so it is important to look out for signs that may need immediate medical attention like difficulty in breathing, hives or swelling of the face.
Insect bites are best avoided by keeping the surroundings clean and not letting water or garbage accumulate, so that mosquitoes and other insects do not get a breeding place. Invest in mesh doors and windows so that air may circulate, but insects do not gain entry into your house. While venturing out, dress up your baby in clothes that minimize exposure. Insect repellents containing DEET (Diethyltoluamide) or picaridin can be used for babies over 2 months of age. However, the following precautions must be followed:
- The concentration of DEET should not be more than 30%.
- The concentration of picaridin should not be more than 10%.
- An insect repellent should not be applied more than once a day.
- Once the baby is brought indoors, the insect repellent must be washed off with soap and water.
Written by Dr. Shivani Shourie, MBBS, PG-DHA, PG-DMLS, DHI