Skin Protection For Infants And Children

The sun emits ultraviolet (UV) radiation that can be harmful to the skin. All people are susceptible to UV damage. However, for infants and kids, sun safety is particularly important, as they have sensitive skin that needs special protection.

Extra-Sensitive Skin

Children’s skin is thinner than adults’ skin. Melanin production is also more limited in kids, and sunburn can easily result from sun exposure. Melanin is a pigment produced by the skin, which acts as a defense mechanism when the skin is exposed to the sun.

Sunscreen for Children

Ideally, all children over six months of age should wear sunscreen daily, as incidental sun exposure can be just as likely to result in skin cancer or damage as a full day at the beach. Some companies produce waterproof or sensitive skin sunscreen formulas. Sunscreen is not recommended for children under six months of age; infants should be kept out of the sun to protect their delicate skin. When sun exposure cannot be avoided, protective clothing and shades or umbrellas can minimize sun exposure.

Sunburn can occur in as little as 15 minutes. When initial signs appear, get your child out of the sun, as further exposure will only intensify the damage. Tanning, an increase in melanin production as the skin attempts to protect itself, is also a sign of skin damage. Even children with dark or olive skin can sustain sun damage or sunburns, and require sun protection. Apply sunscreen even on cloudy days, as UV rays can penetrate the clouds.

Sun Safety Tips: Limiting Sun Exposure

One of the most important sun safety tips for children is to reduce sun exposure. Using an umbrella or pop-up tent is helpful, especially during the midday hours (from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.) when the sun’s rays are strongest. Limiting time in the sun can also help prevent other conditions, such as heat exhaustion or heatstroke, which can be very dangerous.

Protective Clothing for Children

Protective clothing can also reduce UV exposure, and parents do not have to worry about it washing or wearing off like sunscreen. Bathing suits made from UV-protective materials, particularly those that cover the skin from the neck to the knees (similar to a wetsuit) can provide additional protection for young children.

Hats, especially those with wide brims or neck flaps, cover the sensitive skin of the face and neck. Long-sleeved shirts and pants also offer protection from the sun. However, these may not be the best option on very hot days; sunscreen and shade can provide better protection in extreme heat with less risk of heat exhaustion.

Protective eyewear is also important for children. The sun can burn the corneas just as it can burn the skin. Look for sunglasses that offer UV protection (not all sunglasses do).

Be sure your children are sun-safe in all situations. Send sunscreen, hats and protective clothing to day care or school with them so they will be protected during outdoor recess or playtime.

Resources

American Academy of Dermatology. (2005). Sun protection for children. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://www.aad.org/public/publications/pamphlets/sun_sunprotection.html

Centers for Disease Control. (2009). Protecting children from the sun. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://www.cdc.gov/cancer/skin/basic_info/children.htm

The Nemours Foundation. (2010). Sun safety. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://kidshealth.org/parent/firstaid_safe/outdoor/sun_safety.html#

Sun Safety for Kids. (n.d.). Sun-protective clothing. Retrieved July 11, 2010, from http://www.sunsafetyforkids.org/sunprotection/clothing/