What could be lovelier than a bright and sunny day? While you and your little ones are enjoying the sunshine, don't forget about sun safety. Babies and children have especially delicate, sensitive skin which is more susceptible to the sun's damaging effects, so it's essential to keep them well protected.
How do I protect my baby from the sun?
Very young babies, under the age of six months, should be kept out of direct sunlight, as their skin is so sensitive. You can help protect your child’s skin by:
• Being in the shade during the hottest part of the day (between 11am and 3pm)
• Fitting a sun-protective cover to their stroller or pram
• Dressing them in lightweight clothing that covers their arms and legs
• Protecting their head, neck and ears with a wide-brimmed hat
• Fixing a sunshield to your car windows
• Use a sun cream that is specially formulated for young skin, with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15
How do SPFs work?
The SPF tells you how long the product will protect you from UVB rays – for example, SPF15 allows you to stay in the sun 15 times longer without burning than if you were to wear no protection. Choose a sun cream which protects from both UVB rays (which are responsible for burning the superficial layers of the skin) and UVA rays (which can penetrate deeper, sometimes causing long-term damage.). Ask your pharmacist for advice if you're unsure which sun cream is most suitable for you.
How much sun cream should I apply?
Apply sun cream to your child liberally and frequently, and remember that skin is still vulnerable to UV damage even on cloudy days. If your child has eczema or particularly sensitive skin, test the sun cream first on a small patch of skin and leave it for 24 to 48 hours. If it doesn't irritate them, apply their usual emollient cream and then the sun cream 30 minutes to one hour later. For outdoor play, make sure there's always enough shade – a pop-up tent with UV protection makes a perfect shady 'den'. Children should also wear sunglasses with an ultraviolet filter and don't forget their sun hat. Water reflects the sun's rays, increasing their intensity, so it's wise to pop a T-shirt over their swimwear or invest in a UV protective vest for when they're playing in the water. Sun cream should be reapplied frequently – always reapply straight after they have come out of the water and dried off, even if the product you're using is water-resistant.
There's no mistaking sunburn – your child's skin will look red and feel very hot and sore. It should always be avoided where possible through sun safety, but if it does happen, these techniques may help to calm it down:
• Cool the affected area by patting with a cold sponge or facecloth
• Very gently pat the skin dry and apply a soothing aftersun gel or calamine lotion
• Give paracetamol or ibuprofen to help ease the pain and inflammation
• Get them to drink plenty of fluids to help them cool down and avoid dehydration
• Keep sunburnt skin covered and out of direct sunlight completely, until all signs of redness have gone
If the sunburn is severe, seek advice from your doctor, especially if blisters develop.
• Use plenty of sun cream and always provide shade
• Keep babies under the age of six months out of the sun
• In cases of severe sunburn, see your doctor immediately