Sunlight is essential for good health. But babies should not be exposed to the sun without proper protection. Their skin is very thin and burns easily. They need to be protected against the sun's strong rays, which can cause dehydration and allergic reactions.
Before the age of 6 months, the skin is very delicate. Applying sunscreen could cause an allergic reaction. Passed 6 months of age, when your baby plays outside, make sure he wears a hat and clothing made with tightly woven fibres. It should also cover the arms and legs. Furthermore, PABA-free sunscreen and a parasol are good protection against the sun. Try to avoid the strong sunlight of mid-day, between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m.
When it comes to sunscreen, there's no need to purchase the most expensive product to protect your little one from the sun. Expensive doesn't necessarily mean better. Here are a few criteria to consider:
- Get a sunscreen "broad spectrum" that protects against the two types of sun rays that cause damage to the skin, UVA and UVB.
- The sun protection factor (SPF) indicates the level of protection against UVBs. Choose a sunscreen and lip balm with an SPF of at least 30. If your child has light skin, an SPF higher than 30 is recommended.
- For protection against UVA rays, look for the following ingredients: Parsol 1789, Mexoryl SX, Mexoryl XL, Helioplex.
- If your child is taking medication, talk to your doctor or pharmacist. Some medication may cause your child to develop photosensitivity. Your child's skin may become more sensitive to the sun, or some sunscreens may cause irritation, redness or swelling.
Up to 85% of UV rays can pass through the clouds. Always apply sunscreen, even when it's cloudy. Apply the sunscreen at least 10 minutes before your little one heads outside in order to give the product time to form a protective barrier. The easiest is to apply it while your child is getting dressed. Pay special attention to the back of the knees and the top of the feet. Do not forget to reapply it every two hours. If he's been in the water or sweating heavily, do not wait and reapply after drying off the skin. Keep in mind that a waterproof product will maintain its effectiveness longer in water versus a water resistant product.
Have you ever wondered which comes first, the sunscreen or the insect repellent (good old OFF!)? Well if you need to apply both, it is recommended to put the sunscreen on first and to let it penetrate the skin for 20 minutes before applying the insect repellent. It is not advisable to use those two-in-ones, that is to say those products containing both sunscreen and insect repellent containing DEET.
What should you do when your child catches a sunburn? I have come up with a few tips to help you out if the situation arises.
- Put your child in the shade or indoors.
- Make him drink a lot of fluids.
- Place your kiddo in a cold shower several times a day or apply cold water compresses.
- Give your child acetaminophen or ibuprofen, to relieve the symptoms.
- Make sure the burnt areas aren't exposed to the sun until their full recovery.
- Apply an unscented moisturizer all over the skin. A Calamine lotion may also help. Do not use baby oil as a moisturizer before your child goes outside. The oil will intensify the sun's effects and could make the his skin burn more quickly.
You should know that, the most common skin cancers, carcinomas, are caused by repeated sun exposure, while melanomas, less frequent but far more serious cancers, are mostly due to sunburns.
When our children head outdoors to play, we think skin protection. But what about eye protection? We somehow tend to forget that the eyes are as equally in need of sun protection as the skin. The sun's UV rays are as dangerous to the eyes, which means both the sun's direct rays and rays that reflect off the sand or water. The intensity of the rays can be decreased by the natural closing of the eye's pupils, wearing a wide-brimmed hat or cap and wearing good-quality protective sunglasses with a scratch-proof surface that blocks UV rays (UV 400).
Regarding the sunglasses, it is indubitably important that you choose the sunglass lenses and frames carefully. The lenses must block all of the sun's harmful rays, especially the UV rays. UV 400 should be indicated on the sunglasses. And indication of UV 100 or UV protection is not good enough. Lens colour is important. Green and grey lenses don't change how colours are seen. Avoid other coloured lenses that change the way things look. Most sunglasses sold in department and grocery stores have moulded lenses that may have defects. This can cause headaches and distort the way objects are seen. Poor quality sunglasses are actually worse for your child's eyes than no sunglasses.
Good to know advice:
- Never seat your child facing the sun. A baby under the age of one must always be in the shade or in indirect sunlight.
- Never let your child look directly at the sun, even during an eclipse.
- Don't let your kiddo play with magnifying glasses or mirrors that could reflect the sun's rays.
- See a professional (optometrist or ophthalmologist) if your little one cannot tolerate sunlight, even if it is indirect, or if his eyes water when he goes outside.