“The simple fact is that a baby’s skin simply isn’t as developed as an adults, which means parents need to be extra vigilant when it comes to the sun”, says Bevis Man of the British Skin Foundation (www.britishskinfoundation.org.uk). Bevis urges parents that babies should never be left out in direct sunlight, as they can dehydrate and be sunburnt very quickly, she adds; “Babies and very young children can’t regulate their temperature in the same way as adults, so can easily overheat. If you simply can't avoid direct sunlight for the baby, make sure that any exposed skin that isn’t covered by clothing has generous amounts of sunscreen applied, but the main aim here is keep them absolutely covered if at all possible.”
Experts agree that vigilance is the key when it comes to taking care in the sun. Bevis advises; “Find some shade, whether this comes in the form of a parasol or keeping them inside. We know that the majority of UV damage to the skin occurs before the age of 20, so it’s essential that babies and children are protected from a young age.”
Parents can sometimes feel at a loss, with so many different brands, factors and the array of different forms of application to select from. When it comes to factor though, the advice is to think high! “The British Skin Foundation recommends adults start off with a sunscreen that has an SPF of 30, with a high UVA protection rating, so those with a four or five star UVA rating. You might also notice that instead of the star rating, some sunscreens will have the letters ‘UVA’ inside a circle. This means that, in line with EU recommendations, the sunscreen’s level of UVA protection is at least a third or more of the labelled SPF”, explains Bevis. For children Bevis recommends using a sunscreen with a high SPF at least 50, as children’s skin is more delicate and more sensitive to burning, as well as a high UVA rating as described above.
Skin experts agree that clothing often gets overlooked when it comes to protecting skin, and it’s this that can make all the difference. “Clothing is essential as it offers a consistent level of protection, and unlike sunscreens, won’t ‘rub off’ during the day”, says Bevis, adding, “Think about the areas that you never apply sunscreen on – typically the backs of the neck, the ears, the feet and especially the toes (when wearing sandals, open toes shoes) and shoulders. These areas will burn easily so cover them and make an extra effort to put sunscreen on.”
When it comes to toddlers, by their nature they will run around and won’t always oblige with clothing, but small changes such as what time you’re out and about with them can help determine whether or not they will become potentially harmed by the sun. Bevis warns, “The hours on either side of midday tend to be the time when the sun is at its strongest, so you should give this time a miss.”
What to do if a child is sunburnt…
Clearly this is an absolute last resort and parents should do all they can to prevent this from happening, but, if you find that your baby has been sunburnt, it may be best to take them to A&E. Bevis’ advise is clear, “As previously discussed, babies can’t ‘deal’ with the sun in the same way adults can, and we’ve read about some cases where babies have been badly burnt after being left out in the sun. Don’t take any risks and get them seen by a doctor.
“For children, sadly the damage will have already done and they will go through a similar process of sunburn as adults – red, swelling and soreness and peeling. At this stage it really is a case of damaged limitations, and making life as least painful for them as you can. The most important thing to do is to keep the skin moisturised, so plenty of aftersun and moisturising (even if it is painful) and plenty of water to re-hydrate the body. You may want to bathe the children in a cool bath or give them a cold shower that will help the skin cool down, and use some calamine lotion if there is soreness or itching that is causing aggravation.”