“Once an infant is over 6 months old, direct sunlight exposure is OK as long as the child has sunscreen of more than SPF 15 applied frequently,” advises Wagner. She adds that sunscreen should be applied prior to going outside and reapplied every few hours, especially after contact with water. Whether it’s cold or hot, top off your little one’s outfit with a hat to keep the sun off his face.
Even when your kiddo is out of direct sunlight, make sure that he stays hydrated and doesn’t get overheated during hot summer months. A baby receives all the hydration he needs from breast milk and/or formula until starting solids. In fact, giving newborns water can actually be harmful, causing a condition called oral water intoxication, where
the electrolytes in the bloodstream become too diluted. Once your babe starts solids,
you can bring a sippy cup with water when you head outdoors. If he becomes too hot, his skin may appear flushed, red or sweaty. That’s a sure sign it’s time to cool off inside for a while.
If you live in an area with a high concentration of mosquitoes, protecting your little one from bug bites can also be a major concern. Some countries have mosquitoes that carry diseases including the chikungunya, dengue and Zika viruses. Thus far, the continental U.S. has been lucky enough to escape most of these infections although some cases of locally acquired Zika virus have been documented in the Miami area and parts of Texas, near the Mexico border.
But even without the risk of illness, pesky bug bites are no fun, especially when they swell into welts on an infant’s sensitive skin. To get the best protection, use an insect repellent with 10 percent DEET, which is safe for pregnant and nursing women and children older than 2 months. Picarin is another option commonly used in Europe—but less well known in the U.S. Although the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has said that picarin is a safe and effective alternative to DEET, the AAP has yet to give it the all clear for babies because of a lack of long-term research.
It might seem like a good idea, but sunscreens that contain bug repellent are a no-go for babies because you need to apply sunscreen more often than insect repellent, which can cause your tot to be overexposed to chemicals.
The natural world isn’t predictable, which can sometimes make it a scary endeavor for new parents, but it also provides a world of boundless learning and developmental possibilities that you just can’t recreate indoors. Whether you’re strolling through the park or going on a weekend camping trip, children thrive in their natural surroundings and the more they get outside, the better.