The outdoors is filled with sights, sounds and tons of things to touch and explore. Spending time outside with your baby can both help his development and instill a lifelong appreciation for nature.
You and your baby can head outside right away. Many pediatricians recommend keeping newborns away from crowded places, where germs are prevalent. But as long as you take the proper precautions, a walk outside is great for everybody — especially for tired parents!
When is it too hot, too cold or too wet to take a baby outside?
Here are some of the best ways to prepare for summer heat, wet or cold weather, and windy weather.
Summer heat: Go out in the morning or early evening to avoid the highest daily temperatures. Have baby wear a hat and light-colored cotton clothes. Avoid direct sun and seek shade. Bring a spray bottle of water for a quick cool-down. Of course, splashing in a pool, lake or stream with your baby is refreshing too!
Wet or cold weather: Dress your baby in several thin layers, a warm hat, mittens and insulating shoes or socks. To make sure baby’s not getting overheated, stick your hand on his skin under his clothes and shed a layer if needed. The rule of thumb for older babies and young children is to dress them in one more layer of clothing than an adult would wear in the same conditions.
Wind: If your baby seems uncomfortable, and you can’t shield him from the wind, take him inside.
How do I protect my baby from the sun?
The sun is our friend: it makes plants grow, keeps us warm and helps us see the world around us. But it is true that a baby’s skin is especially sensitive to the sun’s rays, so baby sun protection is important.
Here are some tips to help protect your baby from the sun:
- Avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day between 10 am and 2 pm. Stay in the shade, and remember that reflected light can also be harmful. Water and sand are two big reflectors, so just be aware of your surroundings!
- Dress infants in lightweight long pants, long-sleeved shirts and brimmed hats that shade the neck to prevent sunburn.
- Even on cloudy days or while riding in the car, always use a sunscreen specially developed for babies. If your baby is younger than 6 months of age, discuss the use of sunscreens with your pediatrician or other healthcare provider.
But nature’s so…dirty!
Don’t be afraid if your baby gets dirty while outside. A growing number of researchers believe that good old-fashioned playing in the dirt exposes children to a myriad of bacteria, viruses and microbes that strengthen their immune systems. Mud pies, anyone?
How do I know which plants are dangerous?
Rolling in the grass, eating aratilis, climbing mango trees: most plants and flowers are delightful parts of an outdoor childhood.
For the few troublemakers, here are some tips:
- Learn what poisonous trees and plants look like, such as Paraiso which is also known as Bead Tree or China Berry. Eating its fruit may result in paralysis, unconsciousness and breathing difficulties.
- Be sure to consult your pediatrician or other healthcare professional if you feel your baby is exhibiting an allergic rash.
- Babies explore their world by putting just about anything into their mouth. But some plants are actually poisonous to eat.
How do I keep the bugs away?
Not all insects are as lovely as ladybugs and butterflies. But don’t let them keep you and your baby inside.
Mosquitoes: The best way to protect against mosquitos is to prevent them. Mosquitos breed in stagnant water, so remove any pots or fill in any holes outside where water may collect.
Then, just so you are aware, check with your local public health department to find out if there are any known mosquito-borne diseases in your area (e.g dengue).
Ticks: Ticks (“garapata” in Filipino) usually live in the bodies of animals, including dogs. As a precaution, dress your baby in light-colored clothing, so ticks can be spotted easily. Check your baby’s skin and hair for ticks regularly. Make sure you remove any ticks properly and consult your pediatrician or other healthcare provider.
Stinging insects: Bees, wasps and other stinging insects don’t attack unless provoked, but babies might annoy one by accident. If your baby does get stung, it will most likely cause some swelling and pain that will be relieved in a few hours. It is important to remove the stinger — use a credit card or fingernail and gently scrape it off horizontally. Then soak a cloth in cold water and press it over the area to reduce the pain and swelling.
Allergic reaction: In rare instances, your baby may be allergic to bee stings, which is very dangerous. Symptoms of this allergy include: Rash over many parts of his body, shortness of breath, swollen tongue, hands, or face, weakness and unconsciousness. Bring him to the nearest hospital immediately.
Bug repellent: Bug repellents labeled "for the whole family" can usually be used once a child is over 2 months old. Talk with your pediatrician or other healthcare provider before using bug repellent on your baby.
Can babies get seasonal allergies, like allergic rhinitis?
This is one thing you most likely don’t have to worry about — yet. It’s rare that young babies experience seasonal allergies for the simple reason they haven’t been alive long enough. But when a child is about 3 years old, seasonal allergies can spring up, and your healthcare provider can offer guidance on how to treat them.
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