Sunburns: Infants and Children
Infants and children require special care when exposed to sun. A young child has more skin relative to his or her body mass than an adult, so a sunburn can be more serious.
Babies have sensitive skin that can be damaged easily. They are not born with a developed skin protection system, and their skin's outermost layer is thinner than an adult's. A baby's skin burns more easily, even an infant born to parents with dark pigmented skin.
Babies cannot tell you if they are too hot or if the sun is too bright. When they cry, the parent may not know whether he or she is tired, hungry, hot or burning.
Babies also cannot physically move out of sunlight. A six-month-old infant on a blanket is less mobile than a one-year-old who can crawl to the shade.
Remember that your child's thinner and more sensitive skin needs extra protection. Teach them to wear sunscreen and protective clothing. Dress young children or babies in light-colored, lightweight clothing, and always cover the head with a broad-brimmed hat. If your family spends time in the sun, follow these guidelines to protect your child.
- Keep babies less than a year old out of direct sunlight to prevent skin damage and dehydration.
- Don't let infants or young children play or sleep in the sun in a playpen, carriage, stroller, car seat, swing, etc.
- Place babies in the shade, under a tree, an umbrella or a stroller canopy, although even this step will not protect a young child completely.
- Do not apply sunscreen to infants under six months old.
Be cautious of metal and plastic playground equipment or outdoor furniture that is exposed to direct sun. Upon contact with your child's skin, it can burn easily.
- If your child is six months of age or older, apply PABA-free sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 at 15 to 30 minutes before going outdoors. Reapply every two to three hours, especially if children are playing in the water.
- Don't let young children stay in the sun for long periods, even when wearing a sunscreen.
- Dress your child in protective clothing. Comfortable long pants, long sleeved shirt and broad-brimmed hats offer excellent protection against the sun. Closely woven materials are best. If you can see through the fabric, then the sun's rays will get through also.
- Keep in mind that a wet T-shirt offers only minimal protection.
- When heat and humidity are high, do not allow children to exercise outside for more than 30 minutes without a water break. Be sure kids drink plenty of water before, during and after outside activity. Insist on breaks in the shade to cool off.
- Be cautious when using or allowing your child to play with a garden hose that has been exposed to the sun. The standing water inside can be extremely hot and can cause serious burns. Let the water run and pre-test the temperature.