How to keep baby safe in the sun
We are absolutely delighted to have teamed up with the wonderful Kim Brown from SeBeau Health Visiting. Kim is an Independent Health Visitor offering individualised support and education to families across North Yorkshire. As a mum of three I have lots of experience with little ones but when it comes to sun safety we wanted to make sure that we had our facts right. So please find below a comprehensive guide to keeping your little ones safe in the sun.
How to keep baby safe in the sunshine
By Kim Brown RMN, SCPHN HV- Independent Health Visitor
Every year in Britain we all wait in trepidation of the sunshine, ready to get out our shorts and barbecues to make the most of it. For those of you with small children however the arrival of the sunshine can bring with it anxiety about how best to keep your little one safe. So I’ve put together some straightforward advice using current, evidence based recommendations to help you decide what will work best for you. So kick off your flip flops and get comfy for this whistle stop tour of managing the sunshine.
I often get asked about using sun cream on very young babies. Most sun cream is recommended for use from 6 months of age. The main reason for this being that it is not recommended to have babies under 6 months of age out in the sunshine, so in theory they shouldn’t need to wear sunscreen. It is therefore not routinely tested on the skins of babies under 6 months old and so we can’t be sure of either its effectiveness or safety used for this age group. For children over 6 months of age it’s important that you choose a cream with a minimum SPF of 15. It will normally say on the cream if it has been found to be safe for use on children, who generally tend to have more sensitive skin than us. Remember to follow the directions for how often the cream needs to be reapplied during the day and bear in mind that this will need to be more often if your children are in water. Children should be protected from the suns rays from March until October even if it seems cloudy.
So what do I do with my child under 6 months?
The simple answer is try to keep your baby out of direct sunlight during this time. No this does not mean you need to be a hermit with your summer born baby. It just means that you maybe need to plan your trips out a little, which you're probably already doing around feeding times and sleep times so this is just another temporary element to take into account. We’ll talk more about times of the day in the next section but one thing that can be easiest to do with a small baby is wait until evening time before you go out for some fresh air with them. Not only are the sun's rays not as strong at this time of day but the temperature has normally started to cool down as well which is another important factor to take into account with small babies. Even in pushchairs that are made from material that offers UV protection or under an attached product offering this protection such as a parasol or sun shade, there is still a risk that your little one is going to get pretty toasty, pretty quickly. Especially as some products also prevent adequate air flow and can actually end up adding to the air around baby heating further. In theory the only times your baby should need something placed over to protect them from the sun is for very short periods of time eg transferring baby from the house to the car. If you have a cover with UV protection then use it however please do not feel that this is another thing you need to purchase if you don’t own one as for these short periods UV protection isn’t necessary and a non UV cover such as a multi-use cover will suffice.
Times of the day
One thing it’s important to know about is that depending on what time of the day it is the sun can be more damaging. From about 11am until about 3pm the sun is at its hottest and it's recommended that all children are kept in the shade during this time. If you are outside with children during this time it is advised that you seek areas of shade for them to be in rather than them being directly in the sun.
Just like everything else for children there are literally thousands of different products to choose from that claim to provide protection from the sun to the wearer. Here though are some items you may want to consider. Sunglasses, ensure that these offer UV protection as not all sunglasses do, they can also be purchased in a wraparound style to help keep them on your little ones eyes as they don’t provide much protection on the floor! They not only offer protection for your little persons sensitive eyes but they’ll probably look pretty cool too! Hats are a good idea as not only does the top of your head tend to be right on show for the sunshine people don’t tend to put sun cream there. Legionnaire style hats with the flap on the back can be good too as they also provide extra protection for ears and necks.
Sun stroke and sunburn
The aim of the game is to always try and ensure that your little one does not end up with either sunburn or sunstroke. However if despite your best efforts this does occur, here’s some information to help you manage the situation safely. For a baby under the age of 1 years sunburn should be treated as an emergency and you should seek medical advice. For a child over the age of 1 years medical attention should be sought if the child has a high temperature, if there is any blistering or severe pain and if the child appears lethargic. Sunburn can result in dehydration which can become serious more quickly with small children. Sunstroke also known as heat stroke can be quite serious and is the result of the body becoming too hot. Be sure to make sure your child has opportunities to cool off on hot days. Even when kept in the shade the temperatures in the middle of the day can become very high. For sunburn in an older child which does not show the signs of a medical emergency cooling the skin can provide some relief from the discomfort. This can be done with a clean wet wash cloth or a tepid bath. Be careful not to cool a young child too quickly. After sun can be applied to the area, be sure to be careful when doing this and not to rub the skin. It’s also important to make sure that you give your child plenty of drinks to prevent dehydration as a result of their burns. Most importantly make sure to keep your child out of the sun until the area has completely healed.
Vitamin D can be difficult for us to get from our diet alone and our best source of Vitamin D is from the sunshine. As its paramount that we ensure that children are protected from the potential damage the sun can cause it is also recommended that children are provided with a daily Vitamin D supplement. This ensures that your child is getting their requirement of Vitamin D whilst still being protected.
I hope you found some of this information useful and it helps both you and your little ones enjoy the summer. If you’d like to know more please feel free to contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org