Taking Action: Local Mom Believes Sunscreen Burned Her Baby

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) – Every day in Alabama, parents slather sunscreen on their kids. The dangers of too much sun are clear, so experts recommend using sunscreen early on children – when they’re still babies.

One woman though, believes the sunscreen she thought would protect her daughter, may have burned her instead.

“She got burned by something that was supposed to be safe for babies,” Amber Reece said.

Reece tells WHNT News 19 her daughter Sydney’s ordeal began during a day on the water for Mother’s Day 2014. Amber said she applied a Banana Boat Baby SPF 50 Stick to her daughter’s face, under the eyes and across her nose. Minutes later, according to the mom, Sydney’s skin started to turn red.

When the 11-month-old’s skin continued to peel and scab, Amber brought Sydney to Dr. Shraddah Shrestha. The Athens-based pediatrician tells WHNT News 19 Sydney’s case is very rare – something seen in less than one in 10,000 people.

“It [was] like a photo allergic reaction to the sunscreen stick,” Dr. Shrestha explained.

Dr. Shrestha said she’s basing that diagnosis largely on Amber’s account of what happened.

The pediatrician added however, that it’s also possible Sydney’s burn came from too much sun exposure.

WHNT News 19 checked with the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and found no recalls involving Banana Boat products in the last seven years. There were also no “Adverse Event” reports associated with Banana Boat’s Baby Stick.

Energizer Personal Care, the maker of Banana Boat, insists its products are safe and sent the following statement:

“Banana Boat products, including the sun screen stick… are safe and effective when used as directed on the product label. Because nothing is more important to us than the safety of our consumers we take these matters very seriously and thoroughly investigate all consumer feedback including this incidence.” — Energizer Personal Care

Amber said the stick used on Sydney was not expired and that she’s shipped it back to Banana Boat at the company’s request for testing.  The Reece family though, wants action.

“They need to recall it and get it off the shelves,” Reece told WHNT News 19, while bouncing baby Sydney on her lap, “Before it really does do some major damage to a baby.”

Although WHNT News 19 was able to find the Banana Boat Baby SPF 50 stick for sale online, and while it may still be available in some stores, the maker of the product tells us it was discontinued in 2012 and stopped shipping to stores in advance of the 2013 season.

The company tells us it made the change as part of a regular product line shakeup and not due to any concerns over safety or efficacy.

When it comes to using sunscreen on your child, The Mayo Clinic offers these guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, FDA and American Cancer Society:

For babies six months and older:

  • Liberally use sunscreen
  • Avoid exposing your child to the sun during peak hours – generally 10:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m.
  • Use protective clothing, a hat with a brim and sunglasses

For babies younger than six months:

  • Keep out of direct sunlight as much as possible
  • Use protective clothing, a hat with a brim and sunglasses

When exposing your child to any sunscreen for the first time, be alert. As Dr. Shrestha warns, “Whenever you are applying new product there’s always chances of having an allergic reaction and you never know until you apply it.”

Parents should “spot test” any new product on a child before applying it liberally. Squeeze just a little bit out, on a hand for example, then rub it in. Wait a few minutes before applying elsewhere and watch for any adverse reaction.

If you’ve experienced a problem with a sunscreen product, or another personal care product, you can contact the FDA directly to file an incident report.

Click here for detailed steps on how to submit an “Adverse Event” report to the FDA.

You can also find additional information about the FDA’s Adverse Event Reporting System here.