How to protect your baby or toddler in the sun
Your baby’s skin is very delicate, fragile and ultra-sensitive to the sun. Parents should be cautious about exposing their babies to the dangers of the sun – particularly here in Australia where sun protection should be a part of everyday living. In fact, the Cancer Council recommends that you keep your baby out of the sun completely in their first six months, because their skin is too sensitive for sunscreen.
With only a small amount of melanin in their skin, you can imagine how easy it is for your baby’s skin to burn in the sun and the resulting damage this can cause. In fact, sunburn can cause severe dehydration, fevers, chills, infections and heatstroke in babies very quickly, a situation which can become life-threatening.
The skin of babies and toddlers is particularly vulnerable to UV damage and there is compelling evidence linking sun exposure early in life to skin cancers later in life.
To help you keep your little ones safe in their early years, here is a list of recommendations from the Skin Cancer Foundation.
Babies up to 6 months of age
Newborns up to 6 months of age should be kept out of the sun at all times, because their skin is particularly susceptible to damage by UV rays, whilst at the same time their skin is too sensitive for sunscreens. It is recommended that when you take your baby or toddler for a walk outside, do so before 10am or after 4pm and make sure that you have an effective cover on your stroller to shade them from the sun.
Dress your little one in lightweight clothes that cover their arms and legs and protect them with a wide brimmed hat that shades their face, ears and neck. In the car, install sun protectors on the rear windows and install UV protection window films.
Babies and toddlers between 6 and 12 months of age
At this age, your baby can start to wear a sunscreen of minimum SPF 15, which should be applied from head to toe to exposed skin. It is important to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before you take your baby or toddler out into the sun and reapply every 2 hours or immediately after swimming.
Up to pre-school age children
Care must be taken with young children who are naturally active and can scuttle away before your very eyes. So you need to be more inventive with their clothing, ensuring that it can keep up with their play, running and jumping, whilst at the same time being light-weight, flexible and providing adequate UV protection.
Keeping a hat on children can be problematic, but it is important that they wear a wide brimmed hat and wear at least a SPF 15 sunscreen as well. You can purchase clothing that protects your child’s skin from the sun and the Cancer Council suggests that a UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor) of 30 or above is best. Don’t forget to consider sunglasses for your children as well, to protect their sensitive eye area from the sun’s damaging rays.
The best way to keep your baby and young children safe in the sun is to practice sun safety as a family and then it will just be a part of your daily lives.