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HealthWatch: Limiting Baby’s Sun Exposure

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Baby Feet & Hands. (AP)

Baby Feet & Hands. (AP)

CBS SF Bay (con't)

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It’s finally started to look like June in the Bay Area. But before you rush the family outdoors, a new report is warning parents about babies, toddlers and sunshine.

The report, published in the journal Pediatrics, gives us good reason to better protect a baby’s skin.

Nine month-old Margot Elkins loves to play outside, so her mom Aliciane always makes sure she’s well protected.

“Before we leave in the morning and I’m dressing her I put sunscreen on her,” said Aliciane Elkins.

Now a new report stresses how sun damage in the first year of life can lead to skin cancer in adulthood. That’s because a baby’s skin is thinner and has less melanin. Melanin is the brown pigment that helps to protect the skin from the sun.

In addition, the ultraviolet light in sunshine may also suppress the skin’s immune system

“It’s incredibly sensitive to ultraviolet radiation. And we know that the more exposure earlier in childhood the greater the risk of skin cancers such as melanoma,” explained dermatologist Dr. Doris Day.

Babies under 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun. For older infants and toddlers parents should apply sunscreen heavily, and then reapply it every 2 hours.

The problem: not a lot of sunscreens have been tested on infants.

Look for ones that have a SPF of 30 or higher. Ones that are thicker, and contain zinc and titanium are best.

“Those are more opaque so they really are physical protection that help reflect the sun, rather than being absorbed into the skin,” said Dr. Day.

Older infants and toddlers should also wear protective clothes, sunglasses and hats.

“You hear so many reports about the sun just being so incredibly dangerous,” said Aliciane Elkins, holding her baby.

Doctors say apply sunscreen on cloudy days too – because damaging rays still get through and can cause burns.

One final note: with babies and toddlers, their skin is so sensitive, you may want to test the sunscreen on their forearm to see, a half hour or so later, if they develop a rash or hives or any skin irritation.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved.)

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