For many parents, summertime brings a new set of concerns about how to care for baby’s skin. Is it safe to apply sunscreen on an infant? What rashes will go away on their own and which need medical attention? What causes rashes in the first place?
The following list should be helpful in understanding common skin conditions, and how to care for them:
Diaper rash is the most common. Virtually every baby gets it at least once by their third birthday. It happens most often to babies who are starting solid food, teething, or on antibiotics. Changing diapers as soon as they’re soiled is the best prevention. Let baby go without a diaper whenever possible. A diaper rash ointment seals out wetness and should be applied with each diaper change and especially at bedtime.
However, when it comes to the use of baby powders, creams, etc., generally speaking less is more. A cautionary word on powders, in particular. Nothing smells better than a freshly powdered baby does. Powder can absorb moisture, but be careful not to use powder with talc, which has been linked to cancer. If powder is needed or preferred, it”s best to use cornstarch.
Cradle cap is a dry, scaly area on the scalp. It will generally disappear on its own in a few weeks. However, if you want to speed up the process, apply a small amount of baby oil, shampoo off, and brush hair with a soft baby brush. Be careful not to use too much oil as that can aggravate cradle cap.
Chafing is caused by anything that is tight or rubs constantly on the baby’s skin. Rubber pants and straps are usually the culprit. Remove the tightened clothing and cleanse the area. Rinse and dry skin completely.
Eczema is skin that appears red, irritating and scaly. It’s the most severe type of irritation. Babies with sensitive skin are more likely to develop it. The best advice is to clean and dry skin thoroughly and use specially made sensitive baby skin products. Your pediatrician can recommend which products are best suited for your child.
Heat rash is often caused by overdressing a baby. In generations past, baby was dressed one layer heavier than adults. Frequently, the heat was turned up, too! Today”s thinking is that a baby should be dressed in the same number of layers as the parents are wearing. Sometimes a concerned grandparent will point out that the baby must be cold, because the hands and feet may be blue and their skin may appear blotchy. Relax. This is due to the baby having immature blood vessels and is perfectly normal.
Pink spots on the face are called infant acne. It usually goes away within the first few weeks of life. If it doesn’t, consult your pediatrician. A similar problem for black infants is an eruption of small blisters, which pop open to reveal a dark brown spot. The rash is usually present and birth and also fades in a few weeks.
Does bathing baby too often adversely affect the skin? How often a baby should be bathed is a subject of debate. Many pediatricians feel babies should be bathed only two or three times a week. Most dermatologists disagree. The consensus is that bathing an infant every day with a cleanser made especially for babies can improve baby’s skin. Many moms will confirm that bath time is fun for both parent and baby. The infant gets much needed exercise by kicking and splashing. A lot of parents will attest to the fact that their child sleeps better when given a warm bath as part of a regular evening ritual.
Finally, a word of caution for sun lovers. Most people get 80% of their lifetime exposure to the sun in their first 18 years. It takes only one severe sunburn in early childhood to double the risk of getting skin cancer as an adult. Prevention is the key. Sunscreen should be used every time a child, who is at least six months old, is going outside. (This includes cloudy days.
Approximately 75% of the sun’s UV light comes through the clouds). Sunscreen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside and should be continually reapplied every two hours. It should have an SPF of 15 or more and shouldn’t contain the insect repellent DEET, which reduces the SPF. Apply sunscreen in all fully exposed areas and under the tee shirt, since UV rays penetrate through light material.
Check with your pediatrician if baby is on medication. Some medications cause increased sensitivity to the sun. Remember that a burn doesn’t show for several hours. Don’t judge baby’s exposure by the reddening of skin.
For babies under six months, limit time spent in the sun. When you must take baby out, use hats, parasols, clothing and shade. Baseball caps on little boys look adorable, but they do nothing to shield the ears and back of neck. Wide brimmed hats offer the best protection.
Knowing what to look for and taking a few simple precautions can make your summertime with baby a lot more enjoyable.#