It is so important to keep babies and children from developing sunburn. Here's why:
"In adults, sunburns are painful, and cause tissue damage that can lead to skin cancer. But in babies, sunburns can be a medical emergency, causing dehydration, high fever, blisters, infections, chills, and heatstroke, not to mention vastly increasing their lifetime skin cancer risk", says MD, Jennifer Linder.
While part of the Australian motto for sun protection is universally accepted, the latter part of the motto (slop on the sunscreen) is not totally recommended for infants and babies under six months of age. The US Food and Drug Administration and The Skin Cancer Foundation, for example, recommend using sunscreen only on children older than six months. The Foundation further recommends keeping babies out of direct sunlight for the first six months. The American Academy of Pediatrics, on the other hand, suggests applying sunscreen to small areas of exposed skin in infants younger than six months old if appropriate clothing and shade are not available. (see reference below)
But, why is using sunscreen on babies under six months of age frowned on by some experts? The reason is that the ingredients in sunscreen can penetrate babies’ skin significantly, and because the chemicals in sunscreen are not meant to be ingested, infants could very well lick them off their fingers or any other reachable body area.
The other part of the Australian motto stands true to implementing correct sun protection for babies. Slip on a hat, and slap on a shirt before taking your baby outdoors. Onesies are great for sun protection in young babies (lightweight fabric and light colours are necessary), as well as keeping your baby in the shade as much as possible. Parents should cover the often-exposed, delicate eye, scalp, and neck areas with UV-blocking sunglasses and broad-brimmed hats or sun bonnets, ideally with brims 4” around or greater as well.
Also, for your infant, use canopies and parasols designed for your stroller. When attached, you can adjust them to face where the sun's rays are most harmful and protect your baby. Beach tents, or pop-up shelters are another necessary pack-and-go for a beach trip. These shelters are made of nylon and screen out up to 97 percent of UV rays for time spent sleeping, snacking or breaking.
A family-sized cabana is the way to go!
When your baby is six to twelve months of age, it is safe to use sunscreen on him/her. Sunscreen must be applied thirty minutes before going outside, and every two hours after that for the most protection. It is recommended to use SPF 15 or more, and, if you are using spray/mist sunscreen, remember to always spray into your hands to put onto your baby's face. Also, you can get tear-free sunscreen that will not sting your baby's eyes, and may be a little gentler on baby's skin too!
If you have a toddler or a preschool child, it may be more difficult to ensure their sun safety, as they are moving and playing in the direct sunlight. Be sure to use an SPF 15 or higher, and ensure that the play area contains adequate shade (especially between the hours of 10am and 4pm, when the sun's rays are the most harmful). Also, look for clothing that has the Ultraviolet Protection Factor listing on the label to confirm that your child is well protected. Remember that long-sleeved, unbleached cotton clothing is the most protective and comfortable clothing that your toddler could wear. Lastly, don't forget to slip a hat on your toddler (with a wide brim), as well as to slide on the sunglasses for added sun safety this summer!
Parents are responsible for assisting their children by following proper sun safety rules! Have fun outdoors this summer, but be sure to lead by example, not only protecting your little ones from the sun's harmful rays, but also yourself!!!!
Lana Kelly( B.A, SSW, ECE, Montessori). For 20 years, Lana has been dedicated to helping children and families. In 2010, she published a book (The Sheepish Lamb) , aimed at building resilience to childhood anxiety. She is a mom to four daughters, and values her faith and family solidarity.