Sun safety tips for parents

Babies and young children have sensitive skin that can be damaged easily by ultraviolet radiation from the sun.

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Practice sun protection year-round. Children learn best from your example.

Why children are at risk

  • Extreme heat from the sun can be dangerous for all children, especially infants and young children.
  • Babies are not born with a developed skin protection system, so they burn more easily. Even children born to parents with dark skin need full protection.
  • Babies have more sensitive skin because the outer layer of their skin is thinner.
  • A young child has more skin (relative to body mass) than an adult, so sunburns can be very serious.
  • A baby can't tell you when they're too hot or the sun's too bright. Your baby may begin to cry and you won't know whether they're tired, hungry, or hot.
  • Babies can't physically move themselves out of the sunlight. A six-month old on a blanket is less mobile than a one-year old who can toddle into the shade.
  • Babies totally rely on their caregivers to protect them from the sun and other related risks.

Did you know?

You and your baby or child can sunburn in only 15 minutes depending on the UV index value. If the UV index is low (from 0-2), the risk of getting too much sun is low, and no protection is needed. If the UV index is between 3 and 7, you need protection. A UV index higher than 8 calls for extra protection. In the tropics, the index could be higher than 10.

Tips for babies

  • Keep babies under one year out of direct sunlight to prevent skin damage and dehydration. Never let them play or sleep in the sun.
  • Keep babies in the shade, under a tree, an umbrella, or a canopy. Never leave children in a parked vehicle.
  • Remember, sunscreen will protect against the sun's harmful UV rays, but will not protect children from the heat.
  • Give lots of cool liquids. Water or breast milk are best.
  • Do not put sunscreen on a baby less than 6 months old without asking your health care provider first.
  • Never use baby oil to protect children from the sun. It will not protect them and will do them more harm.

Tips for children

  • Follow the UV index readings each day to plan outdoor activities.
  • The sun's UVB rays are strongest between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. and it is also usually the hottest time of day. Unless the child is protected, keep them out of the sun during these hours.
  • In strong sunlight, have children wear a rimmed, breathable sun hat and sunglasses, and cover their skin with clothes or sunscreen.
  • Get your children used to wearing sunscreen lotion early on. Pay close attention to the areas that are most exposed, like their face, lips, ears, neck, shoulders, back, knees, and the tops of their feet.
  • Never let young children stay in the sun for long periods, even when wearing sunscreen.

Tips for teens

  • Encourage teens to follow the sun safety tips above.
  • Give teenagers sunscreen lotion if they are going to be outdoors for extended periods. Make sure they understand the importance of using it.
  • Teach teens about sun safety, how to understand the UV Index, and the symptoms of sunburns and heat illness.
  • Warn teenagers to avoid using tanning equipment.

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