Like with many things, babies are more fragile. Their immune systems and bodies aren’t fully developed yet.
Babies are more susceptible to the sun’s harmful rays than adults. This is because babies don’t have as much melanin in their skin as adults. Melanin is what gives skin its color. People with darker skin colors have more melanin and are more protected from the sun.
Even one sunburn in childhood can mean a higher risk of melanoma later on. Sun protection should focus on limiting the amount of sun exposure and avoiding sunburns.
Most worrying, many parents believe their babies can build up a tolerance to the sun. This may lead them to expose children to the sun for increasing amounts of time unprotected. This is a dangerous practice.
Sun Protection Recommendations for Babies in the Sun
1) Mesh screens for the car windows.
You know those mesh screens you can place on your car windows to block the sun from hitting the kids in the back? They’re a great way to protect against the sun.
There are 2 types of ultraviolet rays that are important in sun exposure. UVB is one type that cannot penetrate the car’s glass windows. However, UVA is the other type that CAN penetrate glass. The only way to block UVA is to either tint the car’s windows or block them physically.
2) Avoid going outside when the sun’s rays are most abundant.
During the hours of 10AM to 4PM the sun shines very brightly. This means more of its rays are penetrating and hitting the earth. An easy way to avoid sun exposure is to go outside when the sun is just coming up or starting to go down.
Even if you’re avoiding the sun during the worst hours of the day, keep the baby in the shade. The sun covers that come with the stroller are great for this.
3) Dress your baby in sun protective clothing.
Any clothing that has long sleeves and pant legs will help to block the sun. Babies usually like to be swaddled in these anyway. There are special fabrics that protect against the sun better than others. Look for these labels when buying children’s clothing.
Get your child to love hats early on! Most babies will fuss with their hats at first but eventually they get used to them. A cute collection of sun protective hats is a must for any baby’s wardrobe.
4) Use sunscreen in babies older than 6 months.
Sunscreen is not approved for infants less than 6 months old. That’s why the barrier methods of clothing and avoiding the outdoors are more important in this age group.
Special sunscreens that do not irritate a baby’s skin can be used after 6 months. The sunscreen should be SPF 30 or greater. They should also be tear-free. Babies can spread the sunscreen from their bodies to their eyes.
How do you keep your baby sun safe?
- Skin Cancer Foundation. Sun Safety Tips for Infants, Babies, and Toddlers. July 6, 2009. http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/children/sun-safety-tips-for-infants-babies-and-toddlers
- Skin Cancer Foundation. Sun Safe Babies. http://www.skincancer.org/prevention/sun-protection/children/oh-baby