Infants and toddlers can definitely add extra smiles to your summer fun! If you have little ones in your network of friends and family who spend time at your backyard swimming pool, you’ll want to make sure to do what you can to ensure the safety of the youngest members of your tribe. While many people immediately think of the issues that can come directly from the water — drowning and contaminants — swimming pools can also lead to increased exposure to direct sunlight — something that can cause damage to sensitive skin.
Importance of Protection from Sun Exposure
Because of the reflective property of water, babies and toddlers spending time in or near swimming pools are more at-risk for sunburn than they would be simply when exposed to direct sunlight. Not only can sunburn be especially uncomfortable for babies and toddlers, but experiencing sunburn during those first few years can actually increase a person’s chances of contracting skin cancer later on. Because of that significant risk, the Skin Cancer Foundation has issued a warning for babies of all skin tones. The reason for the increased risk for babies is that their melanin, the pigment in skin that naturally protects it from the sun’s damage, has not yet been fully formed.
Steps To Help Avoid Dangerous Exposure
One way to help babies and toddlers avoid the most dangerous sunlight is to keep them under shade (or indoors) from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are most direct and powerful. Of course, the heat of the day is also when taking a dip in the pool can be the most refreshing! You can take some added steps to ensure protection even if you wish to allow your little ones to spend time in the pool during those peak hours.
First, make sure that all babies are protected with lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs. (Rash guard swimwear for babies is readily available.) Also make sure to have each little one wear a wide-brimmed hat as well as UV-filtering sunglasses.
Sunscreen Recommendations and Best Practices
Babies under 6 months old shouldn’t use sunscreen, so you’ll have to be especially careful about exposure to direct sunlight. However, babies 6 months old and older can also benefit from having any exposed skin protected with sunscreen. You’ll want to make sure that the sunscreen you use has an SPF of 15 or greater and has zinc oxide and titanium dioxide listed as active ingredients. Water-resistant, broad-spectrum sunscreen is also recommended.
In addition to making sure you have the right kind of sunscreen, you want to make sure to apply it correctly. That means applying it to all exposed body parts, including backs of hands, ears, and necks. Always plan ahead and apply sunscreen at least a half hour before exposure to the sun. Reapply it every 2 hours or more often if the child enters the pool or is otherwise exposed to water.
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