It is never too early to protect babies from the sun!
Babies are not born with a developed skin protection system and have sensitive skin that is thinner than adult skin so they burn more easily. A young child has more skin, relative to body mass, than an adult, so a sunburn will be more serious. Even children born to parents with deeply pigmented (dark) skin require maximum protection. Sunburns not only hurt and cause skin damage but they can also cause dehydration and fever.
A baby can't tell you when it is too hot or too sunny. Remember, sun protection is needed from late spring right through to fall, whenever the UV index is 3 or greater.
Here are some tips specific to children under the age of 1 year:
- Keep babies out of direct sunlight either in a stroller with a hood or canopy, under an umbrella or in a heavily shaded spot.
- Long walks are best in the early morning or late afternoon. Limit sun exposure for long periods with an infant between 11 am and 4 pm, and especially around noon.
- Babies should wear sun hats with a wide brim. Dress infants in loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that covers the legs and arms. You can use sunscreen (as below) on babies under 6 months of age although it is preferable to avoid the sun and use shade and clothing.
- For babies over 6 months old, sunscreen may be applied to areas of the skin that are not covered by clothing such as the face and the backs of the hands. Avoid the mouth and eye area when applying. If a baby does rub sunscreen in his or her eye, no need to panic: sunscreen does not cause blindness, although it may sting a little. Children should wear UVA and UVB protective sunglasses as soon as possible.
- Look for a sunscreen product with an SPF of 30 or higher, that also provides broad spectrum protection (protects against UVA and UVB).
Contact your pediatrician at once when a baby under the age of one year gets a sunburn - a severe sunburn is an emergency.