Keeping safe in the sun

Getting out and about when the sun is shining is great, not just because you’re enjoying the fresh air, but also because it helps your baby’s body produce vitamin D, which is needed for strong and healthy bones.

However, whether you’re going away on holiday or are simply enjoying sunny weather(!) at home, it’s important to make sure your little ones keep cool and are protected from the potentially harmful effects of the sun though.

Children under six months old

Mother cuddling her baby

Children under six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight, especially around midday –whether fair or dark, their skin does not contain enough of the pigment Melanin that provides some protection from the sun.

To protect them, you can a sunshade or parasol the pushchair; re-positioning as needed. Alternatively, a wide brimmed sunhat, preferably with long flaps down the back, will provide some protection for their head and neck too. Your baby may not like wearing a hat at first but will eventually get used to it! Loose, long sleeved cotton clothing is a good way of ensuring your child’s arms and legs are protected but they don’t get too hot.

If there’s no natural shade, use an umbrella or pop up-tent. Keep moving their toys into the shade to help stay out of the sun. Of course, the weather can be changeable, so make sure you plan ahead and have the right clothing and equipment with you. Try to avoid being out in the sun between 11am and 3pm- the hottest times.

As well as protecting their skin, make sure your little one stays hydrated. Breastfed babies may need to be breastfed more often; you don’t need to offer extra water, as extra breastfeeds will be enough.

To help keep bedrooms cool, ensure that blinds or curtains are closed through the day.  The ideal temperature for a babies bedroom is between 16°C  and 20 °c. A nursery thermometer will be useful to make sure your child’s bedroom is the right temperature at all times.

When it’s hot, your child won’t need layers of nightclothes on, so keep these to a minimum.

Children over six months old

Baby outside with dog

The advice above, such as using a sunshade on the pushchair, wearing appropriate clothing and drinking enough, is still relevant to older babies.

At this age, it’s also worth investing in some wraparound sunglasses for your little one since children’s eyes are more sensitive to UV light than adults’ eyes. You’ll need to ensure they are suitable for your child’s age, have 100 % UVA filtration, UVA 400 label and conform to CE Mark and British Standard (BS EN 1836:1997). Toy glasses are not suitable as they provide no protection.

Breastfed children may need to be breastfed more often and should be encouraged to have extra water. Children over 6 months of age can be encouraged to have extra fluids;  fruit, salad and ice lollies are ideal for this.


Applying suncream

Children over six months old can have sun screen applied.  High factor sun screen should be applied 30 minutes before going outside, and then reapplied every two hours, and more often if they are in and out of a padding pool or the sea – even if you are using sun screens that are water resistant or waterproof.  Sun screen will also need to be reapplied more regularly if the child is sweating a lot.

The sun screen should protect against UVB and UVA rays and be suitable for the age of the child, so check the packaging carefully. Remember that spray sun screens should not be sprayed straight onto your child’s face – spray the sunscreen onto your hand and then apply to your child’s face.

The sunscreen used should be at least SPF (Sun Protection Factor) 15 (UVB protection) and 4 stars (UVA protection). Make sure you check the expiry date of your sunscreen to ensure your sun screen is in date too.

The video clip found on this page around safety in the sun from the NHS provides additional advice.

For more information, please visit Cancer Research UK or NHS Choices. View our travel and holidays article for more details about the practicalities of going away with your little ones too.

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Leicestershire Partnership NHS Trust runs a confidential secure text messaging service for parents of children aged 0-19 years called Chat Health. The service operates Monday to Friday between 9am and 5pm, excluding bank holidays. All texts will be responded to by a public health nurse (health visitor/school nurse) within 24 hours. Outside of the service working hours, you’ll receive a message back to inform you that your text will be responded to once the line reopens.

Should you require urgent health advice in the meantime, please contact your GP, visit an NHS walk-in centre or call NHS 111. For emergencies, dial 999 or visit A&E.

Leicester City: text 07520 615381

Leicestershire & Rutland: text 07520 615382

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