Sun and Sunscreen
While you probably already know the importance of protecting your baby’s skin from sunburn, you may not realize just how sensitive an infant’s skin is to sunscreens. For babies under six months old, Garry Gardner, MD, chair of the Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention for the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), says it’s best to just avoid direct sun exposure altogether when you can. When you are out in the sun, use sun hats, umbrellas and baby-size shades, and apply sunscreen only on small areas of the body (think: the face and back of hands). For babies older than six months, you can use a little bit of sunscreen on any area of exposed skin — just pick one designed and labeled for babies. Be sure to test it on a small area of your baby’s skin first, and if a rash develops, call your doctor. No matter what your child’s age (or mom’s age, for that matter), it’s still important to avoid direct sunlight, especially between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest.
When the heat is on, limit how much time you spend outside with your little one. Heading out with baby in tow for an hour or so is fine — as long as you stay in the shade (or under an umbrella). But if you’re planning to be at the pool or beach all day, hire a sitter to stay inside with baby, advises Gardner. Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable to heatstroke, especially if they’re not used to the warm weather (like if it’s their first summer ever, and you don’t live in Florida or some other warm-weather locale).
We know that you know to keep a very close eye on baby when you’re at the beach or pool (and if you have a pool in your backyard, to keep it fenced off). But you may not realize that even baby pools aren’t completely safe for little ones — babies can (and do) drown in less than two inches of water. So, sure, let baby splash around in one (she’ll probably love it) — just don’t think you can let your guard down just because there’s barely any water in there (same goes for bathtubs and even small buckets of water).
The grass may seem like a soft, safe place for baby, but there are two main things to watch: Plants are the leading cause of poisoning among children, and like puppies, babies will put just about anything in their mouths. So be sure to remove or fence off any poisonous plants. Call your local Poison Help Line (800-222-1222) to get a complete list of poisonous plants common to your area. The second big danger in your yard is the stuff you spray to get rid of weeds and keep pests off your flowers and plants (aka pesticides and herbicides). Don’t let your baby play in the backyard for at least 48 hours after it’s been treated, recommends the AAP.
While a mosquito bite isn’t necessarily anything to worry about, the real hazard when it comes to babies and bugs is the stuff you use to keep those creepy crawlers at bay. The AAP advises against using insect repellent on babies under two months old. For children older than two months, choose a spray with a DEET concentration of 30 percent or less, and do not apply more than once a day. Also, avoid any products that combine DEET and sunscreen — DEET can make SPF less effective, and SPF needs to be reapplied every few hours, but anything with DEET should not be reapplied. When applying repellent, make sure you’re in an open area outside, don’t spray on or near your child’s face (especially around the mouth or eyes), avoid any cuts or irritated skin, and wash your baby’s skin with soap and water after coming inside. Still bugged out by bug spray? (Sorry, we couldn’t help ourselves.) Here are some chemical-free ways to protect your baby from bugs: Avoid areas where bugs tend to hang out (like near flowers, standing water and brush areas) and use netting over your stroller or baby carrier.
Bug bites are more annoying than dangerous for your little one, but a bee sting is another story. Yes, even babies can be allergic to bee stings. So if baby develops a rash, fever or other reaction after being stung, take her to a doctor right away. And did you know that you should also remove the stinger immediately? Yep, it’ll prevent a large amount of the venom from being pumped into baby’s skin. Just gently scrape it off horizontally with a credit card or your fingernail. Ease pain or swelling by soaking a cloth in cold water and pressing it over the bite.
You may not realize how easy it is for even very young babies to roll, wiggle, push or crawl out of open and, yes, even screened windows. So install window guards near changing tables, cribs and any other areas where baby may be crawling or playing.
Too Much to Drink
Believe it or not, dehydration is not a big risk for babies in summer, says Gardner. Babies will let you know when they’re thirsty or hungry, so there’s no need to force fluids just because it’s hot out. And when you feed baby juice and water too early, you run the risk that she won’t take in enough breast milk or formula (and all the important nutrients they contain). Plus, feeding infants juice may lead to tooth decay and obesity.
Beds for Baby
Hitting the road for a summer vacation or visit with grandma and grandpa? Be sure to bring a portable crib or bassinet (or call ahead to make sure there’s one at your destination). Don’t make do by placing baby in the bed with you — if you roll over onto her in your sleep, or if she rolls over onto a pillow or blanket, there’s a risk she could suffocate, warns Gardner. If a well-meaning grandparent is already spoiling baby with a crib full of blankies, toys and stuffed animals, take them out before putting her down for a nap. You want to have as little in the crib as possible, advises Gardner. That means no stuffed animals, pillows or monitors — just a tight, fitted sheet. Blankets aren’t recommended either, but if the AC’s blasting and you’re worried baby will get cold, tuck a thin, light blanket (note: not a comforter) around the foot of the crib mattress, so it just reaches her belly. Also, make sure to set up the crib far away from any plugs or curtain cords, which can get pulled into the crib and create a choking risk. Use the Summertime Safety Checklist to keep baby safe in the sun.
Expert: Garry Gardner , MD, chair of the Committee on Injury, Violence and Poison Prevention for the American Academy of Pediatrics