Did you know that one or two severe sunburns during childhood can double the risk of getting skin cancer later in life? Infants’ skin is at greater risk of sunburn from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays due to their thin, sensitive skin. Follow these tips to give your baby a good start in their skin health for life:
- Shade: Infants under 12 months should always be kept out of direct sunlight, especially during the hours of 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. Put strollers, play mats and playpens in the shade. Create shade by using stroller shades, beach umbrellas or a tent with UV protection. Look for UPF (UV Protection Factor) rating on some product labels.
- Watch for reflected light: Sand, pavement and water reflect the sun’s UV rays. If you can, move to a grassy area.
- Clothing: Dress your baby in clothing, taking care not to overdress baby on a hot day. In general, tightly woven fabrics block and absorb the sun’s rays better. Hold fabric up to the sun to see how much light shines through. The less the light shines through, the better the protection. You can also look for UPF rated clothing (commonly seen in swimsuits).
- Wide-brimmed hat: Choose a hat with a brim of at least 7.5 cm (about the length of a credit card). Wide-brimmed hats provide more coverage and protection than a baseball cap.
- Sunglasses: Protect your baby’s eyes from the sun by using sunglasses with UVA and UVB protection.
- Infants over six months: Even with the use of sunscreen, it’s best to keep your baby in the shade, away from direct sunlight. Choose a water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum SPF (Sun Protection Factor) of 30 or higher, with broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection, and certified by having a DIN # and/or CDA approved. Do not use homemade sunscreens. Do a patch test to check for skin sensitivity before applying a sunscreen for the first time. Apply a generous amount of sunscreen 20-30 minutes before going outside. Remember to reapply sunscreen at minimum every two hours and after being in the water (or more often as per manufacturer’s instructions). If using a spray sunscreen, spray into your hand away from your baby, then apply by hand to avoid your baby breathing in sunscreen.
- Infants under six months: Generally speaking, sunscreens are not recommended on infants under six months, due to their thin, sensitive skin. Lately there has been some acceptance of using small amounts of sunscreen on small sections of baby’s skin. Talk to your health care provider. If you decide to use a small amount of sunscreen on your young infant, first do a patch test and remember to keep your baby in the shade.
Have fun!! With all of these tips, it may seem daunting to get outside with your baby but the fresh air and the learning experiences for your baby are absolutely worth it! My favourite way to get out with baby was to have a picnic in the shade of a tree at a local park with other parents and babies. What is your favourite thing to do outside with your baby? We’d love to hear from you!
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For parenting information or to speak with a public health nurse (every Monday to Friday from 8:30 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.) simply dial 311 or 905-825-6000.