The warm weather has finally arrived, and it's time to get out. Here's what you need to know about having a safe summer with your baby:
Keep your baby cool by dressing her in lightweight and light-colored cotton clothing. Two of the greatest risks to your baby in the summer are overheating and dehydration, explains Leann M. Lesperance, M.D., Ph.D., a pediatrician and clinical instructor of pediatrics at Harvard Medical School in Boston. The general rule, says Dr. Lesperance, is to dress her in one layer more than you're wearing.
Make sure she's hydrated by giving her fluids such as breast milk or formula. If your baby is eating solids (which usually starts between 4 and 6 months of age), it's fine for her to drink between 2 and 4 ounces of water a day.
Keep your baby in the shade, under a tree, umbrella, or stroller canopy if you're outdoors. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that babies under 6 months be kept out of direct sunlight. Sun exposure for older babies should be limited, especially between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun's rays are the strongest.
Be sure to cover her up, particularly her arms and legs, if you'll be in the sun or outside where mosquitoes are prevalent. Use a wide-brimmed hat that shades her face and covers her ears. Eye protection is also important for babies-look for sunglasses of unbreakable plastic that have at least 99 percent UV protection. Mosquito netting on a stroller can be helpful too.
Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen (which blocks both UVA and UVB rays) with at least SPF 15 for babies over 6 months. The AAP does not recommend the regular use of sunscreen on infants who are under 6 months old. If sun exposure is unavoidable, however, you can use small amounts of sunscreen on areas that are not protected by clothing.
Avoid using scented soaps or lotions which can attract bugs. If possible, stay indoors at dawn and dusk, and steer clear of areas where insects congregate, such as stagnant water pools, uncovered foods, and flower gardens.
Spray insect repellent on your hands first and then pat down your child's clothing and exposed skin -- don't apply it directly on her, be careful to avoid her eyes, and don't apply it to her hands. Choose a product that does not contain more than 10 percent of DEET because the chemical, which is absorbed in the skin, can cause harm. Bug spray should not be used on babies younger than 2 months old. Once you return indoors, wash your baby's treated skin with soap and water. For more information about suncare, visit the Sun Safety Alliance at www.sunsafetyalliance.org.