Sunburn Prevention in Young Children

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Topic Overview

Children younger than age 6 years should avoid direct sun exposure because their sensitive skin burns easily. It is essential for babies younger than 6 months to stay out of the sun because they should not wear sunscreen, except possibly in small amounts in areas, such as the face and back of the hands.

If you allow your child older than 6 months in the sun, do the following things to help prevent sunburn:footnote 1

  • Keep children out of the strong midday sun (approximately 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.).
  • Have children wear hats with wide brims that shade the neck, ears, face, and scalp.
  • Have children wear sunglasses with UV protection.
  • Dress children in loose-fitting, tightly woven clothing that covers arms and legs.
  • Apply sunscreen that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher to protect babies' and children's very sensitive skin. Sunscreens that say "broad-spectrum" can protect the skin from ultraviolet A and B (UVA and UVB) rays. Apply the sunscreen at least 20 minutes before going in the sun and reapply 20 minutes after being out in the sun to ensure even application of the product and better protection. Do not apply sunscreen on babies less than 6 months old. Reapply sunscreen every 2 hours or after sweating or swimming. Wearing a T-shirt while swimming will not protect your child from sunburn unless sunscreen has also been applied to the skin under the T-shirt.

In addition to preventing sunburn, sun protection helps prevent other health problems, such as skin damage and skin cancer. Most people accumulate the majority of their lifetime sun damage by 18 years of age.

References

Citations

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (2009). Protecting children from the sun. Available online: http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/children.htm.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerWilliam H. Blahd, Jr., MD, FACEP - Emergency Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerH. Michael O'Connor, MD - Emergency Medicine

Current as ofAugust 11, 2016