When children are very young, their skin is less developed and therefore less resistant to sun exposure than adult skin. For instance, babies’ skin is much thinner and has a thinner stratum corneum, the outermost layer of dead skin. It also contains less melanin, the pigment that provides some protection from UV rays, and lacks a functioning acid mantle, the film on the skin’s surface that provides protection from viruses, bacteria and transepidermal water loss (TWL) — a condition that can lead to dehydration.
All these factors mean that infants are more likely to suffer from heat-related illnesses or become sunburnt by sun exposure, explains the Skin Cancer Foundation. This summer, make sure you take extra precautions to protect your baby from potential dangers.
Sun Safety Tips for Babies
Babies under the age of 6 months should not use any sunscreen, warns Mayo Clinic. Instead, you should stick to alternative methods of protection listed below. Children over 6 months should use sunscreen with an SPF of at least 15, but 30 or above is preferable.
Parents should dress infants in clothes that cover as much skin as possible. This includes lightweight pants, long-sleeved shirts made with a tight-weave material, as well as brimmed hats that create shade for the neck and face, recommends the FDA.
Babies should stay out of direct sunlight at all times, especially between the hours of 10 am and 4 pm when UV rays are at their strongest.
Apply a film to windows that will block between 99 and 100 percent of all UVA and UVB rays. Make sure infants remain cool and hydrated during car rides to lower their risk of heat exhaustion.
Provide you baby with milk or formula on a regular basis whenever you’re out in the sun for more than just a few minutes. Stay alert for signs of dehydration, which include irritability, excessive crying and less urination than normal.
Babies’ eyes need protection from the sun just as much, if not more, than adult eyes. Check out Real Kids’ collection of baby sunglasses to find a pair for your child.