Best Sun-Safety Practices for Babies

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by: Lindsay Hutton
The sun's UV rays can be damaging year round, even when it is cloudy or cold, and your baby's thin skin burns much easier than an adult's does. Follow these sun-safety practices for babies to ensure your little one stays safe in the sun throughout the year.
Mom and baby sitting under umbrella at the beach
Seek Shade and Shelter
The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends keeping babies younger than six months out of direct sunlight as much as possible. Seek shade for your baby inside, under a tree or umbrella, or under the stroller canopy, especially when the sun is strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Not all umbrellas and canopies protect against all UVA and UVB rays — in fact, some reduce exposure by only about 50 percent. Use caution when using these as your baby's means of shade. It's also important to remember that your baby can get a burn even on cloudy days, since the sun's rays can penetrate cloud cover, and bounce off reflective surfaces like snow, water, sand, and cement.

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Baby wearing sunglasses at the beach
Use Sun-Protective Clothing
Dress your child in comfortable clothing that covers the body, such as lightweight cotton gowns, shirts or pants. Clothing with a tighter weave protects better than clothing with a looser weave — the less light that shines through the fabric when held up to a light, the better. Additionally, brighter colors let less light through than whites and pastels. Look for clothing and bathing suits that have SPF in them, and have your child wear a long-sleeve rash guard with her bathing suit.

Also, dress your baby in UV-blocking sunglasses and a hat with at least a four inch brim to help shield her eyes, face, ears, and neck from harmful rays.

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Applying sunscreen to toddler nose
Apply Sunscreen
If shade and protective clothing are not available, the AAP approves of applying sunscreen to babies under the age of six months. It recommends only using it on small areas of exposed skin, such as the face, ears, neck, and the tops of hands and feet. Always apply sunscreen at least 15 minutes before sun exposure, and use a product with an SPF of 15 or higher and one that is labeled "broad spectrum."

For babies older than six months, sunscreen can be applied all over the body, but be careful around the eyes. If your child wipes sunscreen into her eyes, wipe her eyes and hands clean with a damp cloth. Remember to use chemical-free sunscreens that contain titanium dioxide or zinc oxide, and if a rash develops, talk to your child's doctor.

Baby in bath with wash cloth
Treat Sunburns with Care
If your baby gets a sunburn and is under a year old, call her doctor, even if it appears mild. A baby's skin is much more sensitive to sunlight, and even a mild sunburn can be more serious than it appears. Your doctor may give you treatment advice over the phone, or ask to bring her in for an evaluation.

If your baby is over a year old and the burn appears mild, you can treat it at home. A mild burn causes warm, red, and painful skin, and the first 24 hours are usually the most painful. Apply cold compresses to the affected areas, or bathe your child in cool water. The AAP approves of using acetaminophen for pain relief — just be sure to follow the appropriate dosage directions for your child's height and weight. Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids so she stays hydrated.

If your child's burn causes blisters, fever, chills, headache, or any general feelings of illness, call her doctor.