The sun is finally coming out to stay for the summer and with that comes the possibility of sunburns for big kids and even for infants.
While we are excited for summer, it is important to keep in mind that there are some aspects of sun exposure that can be unsafe for our skin. Let’s take a moment to remember some safe practices as we get ready to frolic in the sun.
Infants generally have thinner skin compared to toddlers and older children, which puts them at greater risk for sunburns, but there are some tactics you can take to minimize sun exposure for your baby.
Find shade: The best way to protect your baby’s skin from the sun is to stay in the shade. If you are going somewhere that has limited shade, consider bringing an umbrella or canopy to make your own shade.
Keep their skin covered: Another layer of protection from the sun is to dress your baby in lightweight and light-colored, long-sleeved shirts or pants. A wide-brimmed hat can also help protect their face and head — if they will keep it on their head!
When it comes to sunscreen and your baby, it’s best to stick with mineral ingredients such as zinc oxide or titanium oxide. These are the sunscreens that tend to look white once applied but infants don’t mind and these are the most protective. Apply the sunscreen to the face and on the backs of the hands or lower extremities where they may not have a cloth barrier. If your infant is under 6 months old, use sunscreen minimally and only when shade or other coverings are not an option.
For toddlers and older children who want to play in the summer sun, apply sunscreen 15 to 30 minutes before heading outside, even if it’s a cloudy day, and limit sun exposure during the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Sunscreens should include broad-spectrum coverage for both UVB and UVA rays with a SPF protection of at least 15 — SPF 30 or 50 is even better. Zinc oxide and titanium oxide are also very good ingredients for this age group. Please be wary of any products that tout “natural” ingredients as these are not FDA approved and many do not do a good job of protecting from UV radiation. The general rule of thumb is to apply 1 ounce of sunscreen (which is essentially a shot glass full) to skin surfaces and reapply every two hours and after swimming.
We are all so looking forward to sunshine and warm weather. Let’s take an extra moment to make sure that our children are protected!
Anita Geisler, MD, is a pediatrician with Oregon Medical Group, and Parenting Now’s Board President.