Babies & newborns Featured

Sun protection for your little ones

A baby drinks from a water bottle.
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Written by Marie Sanderson

With the warmer weather finally here, many Canadian families are getting outside where they can keep a safe distance from others. If you have a baby or young child, you may be wondering about what sun protection for your little one.

Carla Findlater, clinical pharmacist, DAN Women & Babies Program at Sunnybrook, says skin is most vulnerable in the first six months of life. During this time, babies should avoid both sun exposure and sunscreen. She recommends providing shade for babies by using a sunshield on strollers and in car windows. You can also dress your baby in breathable fabrics like cotton and linen, and ensure your infant has a broad-rimmed hat and sunglasses.

Ensuring adequate vitamin D intake is another question many families have. She says children can get vitamin D without the damaging effects of the sun, and suggests parents speak with their paediatrician about vitamin D supplements.

When it comes to selecting a sunscreen for children over six months of age, Carla has tips:

  • Select a fragrance-free sunscreen with broad spectrum and minimum SPF 30+. Broad spectrum means the sunscreen will protect against both types of harmful rays: UVB and UVA light (UVB is associated with sun burns, UVA contributes to skin aging).
  • Choose a sunscreen you’ll actually use: Consider your personal preferences, as there are many formulations (spray, stick, creme, lotion). Select whichever you will use reliably.

Be sure to apply the sunscreen to all exposed areas of your child 30 minutes before sun exposure and also reapply every two hours (and immediately after swimming or sweating). Remember, sun is the strongest from 11:00 a.m. to 3:00 p.m.

When it comes to removing the sunscreen, use gentle body soaps, coconut or olive oil, oil-based makeup remover or micellar water. Be sure to avoid abrasive towels, giving your child cold baths or rubbing the skin too vigorously.

What if your child does get a sunburn? Carla recommends applying cool compresses to affected areas, as well as aloe vera or some gentle moisturizer. Be sure to give your little one lots to drink to keep them hydrated, and you can also give acetaminophen, as directed, for pain. She recommends avoiding all products with enzocaine, lidocaine and alcohol, as well as steroid creams.

If your baby is sunburned and under one year old, Carla recommends they are seen by a doctor as soon as possible.

About the author

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Marie Sanderson

Marie Sanderson is a Senior Communications Advisor at Sunnybrook.

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