Spending time outdoors is good for the entire family, but it’s important to understand the potential dangers of sun exposure, especially for babies and toddlers.
Here’s what you need to know to protect your baby or toddler when you head outside:
Sun Safety for Infants Under 6 Months
The best prevention is avoidance.
This advice can be a bummer on gorgeous, sunny days, but the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) stresses that if your infant is younger than 6 months old, it’s important to keep them out of the sun. Their skin is still maturing, and doesn’t have enough melanin (a pigment that offers basic natural sun protection).
If you do need to go outside with your infant…
The sun is at its highest intensity from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., so try to plan outings before or after.
Make sure your baby is covered by lightweight clothing as much as possible (long sleeves, socks, sun hat, etc.). It’s even better if the fabric has UV protection built in. Lightweight, breathable clothing can shield sensitive baby skin from the sun without causing overheating. Stay in the shade whenever you can.
Is sunscreen okay?
Small amounts of SPF 15 sunscreen are usually safe for babies. Put some on her face, hands, feet, and other areas that aren’t covered by clothing. It’s always a good idea to check with your pediatrician about the safest sunscreen options for your baby.
Reminder: Always apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside!
Sun Safety for Babies and Toddlers Over 6 Months
If your baby or toddler takes any medications (even over-the-counter medicines), you should check with your pediatrician about being out in the sun. Some medicines make children more vulnerable to the dangerous effects of sun exposure.
Avoiding the sun when you can – especially during the sun’s most intense hours – is still the best practice for babies and toddlers. However, this age group can be a bit more tolerant of the sun because their skin is beginning to mature.
Still, it’s crucial to make sure your little one has most of their skin covered with lightweight clothing made with close-knit fabric to keep the sunlight out. Don’t forget a hat that covers their ears and shades their neck and face.
Add extra protection.
Babies older than 6 months can typically handle a higher SPF than younger infants, so shoot for the 30 to 50-SPF range and apply it generously to any exposed areas of skin. Reapply sunscreen at least every two hours. Pay close attention to easily missed spots, like the back of the neck and the ears.
You can also have your little one wear sunglasses with UV-protected lenses and an elastic strap to hold them in place.
Keep your child hydrated.
Your baby or toddler will need to drink frequently to stay hydrated on warm, sunny days. For younger babies, offer frequent sips of breastmilk or freshly-mixed formula. Toddlers should drink water before heading outside and continue to drink it frequently when outdoors.
Watch for signs of overheating, such as extreme fussiness or lethargy, and bring your baby or toddler indoors immediately if you spot them.
Need help choosing the right sunscreen for your baby or toddler? Head over to this article for tips on buying, applying, and maximizing the benefits of sunscreen.