With sunny days finally upon us, it’s time to get out and lap up that much needed vitamin D. However, we all know we should be protecting ourselves from the sun, but if you’ve recently had a baby, knowing the best way to protect their skin from harmful UV rays can be a bit of a minefield. Sun cream generally isn’t recommended for use on babies under 6 months, so we’ve got first aid expert Emma Hammett, founder of First Aid for Life to round up everything you need to know about keeping their delicate skin as safe from the sun as possible.
Is it safe for my baby to go out in the sun?
Babies’ skin is much thinner (15 times!) than an adult’s, so UV rays can cause sun damage in a very short space of time. Babies are also more susceptible to heat, thus increasing temperatures can make them seriously unwell and has been linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS).
Whilst babies are under six months old, they are advised to be kept out of strong direct sunlight. In the UK the general advice is that children under 6 months should not use sun cream. This is because they might lick it off and ingest chemicals, have an allergic reaction or react in another unpleasant manner due to their sensitive and thin skin.
Hiding your baby from the rays might seem like an impossible task in the summer, but there are some simple steps you can take to ensure you can enjoy the sun with your baby protected from harm.
The importance of having a breathable and protective stroller cover can’t be overstated! You need an adequate and safe cover to protect your baby from the harmful UV rays whilst allowing:
- Easy accessibility to facilitate regular checks on your child and,
- Sufficient air circulation within the stroller which will help regulate the temperature for your child.
The Lullaby Trust has warned that covering your stroller with blankets (or cloths and covers) can lead to heat being trapped within the stroller and could cause your baby to dangerously overheat.
The Lullaby Trust recommend attaching a clip-on sunshade or parasol to a stroller and checking if your baby is getting too hot by feeling their belly or the back of their neck. They advise to keep babies out of direct sunlight as much as possible.
Can I use a parasol?
Parasols will not block air circulation, however they only shade a small area. The area they shade will shift as the sun moves or as you travel. This means your baby might suddenly be sitting in direct sunlight without you noticing. Also, not all parasols are UV resistant.
If you decide to use a parasol, ensure you choose a UV resistant version and that you consistently check that your baby remains shaded by the parasol.
Can I use a muslin cloth?
Many parents choose to clip a muslin cloth across the stroller to shade their little one from the sun. This is a lovely ventilator, but muslin is not UV resistant, so it cannot protect your baby from the sun’s most harmful rays. (However, a muslin sunshade with a UPF coating is available here).
What’s the safest option?
My personal preference would be to use a stroller cover made of UV resistant but fully breathable material, that covers the whole opening of the stroller, but allows the air to circulate. The best of these have zippers to enable the parents to quickly and easily check on their babies to ensure they are not getting too hot. The best of these are approved by the International Melanoma Foundation.
- Remember that the sun will move, and therefore you will need to keep moving your stroller if it’s parked in the shade!
- You must regularly check on your baby due to their sensitivity to temperature. Carry a thermometer with you and check for sweating and red cheeks.
- UV rays are still a threat on cloudy days.
- Darker skinned babies can still burn and remain susceptible to sun damage.
- Fully breastfed babies don’t require any water. Bottle fed babies should be regularly given cooled boiled water
Enjoy the sunshine!
Written by Emma Hammett for First Aid for Life
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First Aid for life provides this information for guidance and it is not in any way a substitute for medical advice. First Aid for Life is not responsible or liable for any diagnosis made, or actions taken based on this information.