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Children must be allowed to be outside as much as possible. They need to play and run and eat ice cream and bike and have a wonderful time in the heat. But the sun’s rays can be dangerous, and children’s skin needs to be protected. Tips and advice about sun protection for babies and children including sunscreen and more.
Is sun protection important for children?
Yes. It is well established that our skin, no matter at what age, needs to be protected against sunburn to reduce possible risk of skin cancer. The best sun protection is clothing. This includes a sun hat (preferably one which also protects the neck) or a cap. For children who are not crawling and running yet, shade is the best protection (use a parasol or tree!). Sun protection for the stroller is also good to keep children cool during the summer heat.
Choose shade in the middle of the day
During scorching hot summer days, the sun’s rays burn strongest for a few hours in the middle of the day. Feel free to try to plan the day so that you are inside between those hours, or playing in the shade under the trees. Swimming and outdoor play in the open air can be even better during the afternoon.
During the holidays, you can schedule in a siesta. Rest indoors or in the shade after lunch for the whole family. That way, children can also stay up longer and you can enjoy balmy evenings together without the risk of sunburn.
Sun hat or sunglasses?
Put on a sun hat when the children are out in the sun. The advantage of a sun hat is that it also protects the face and neck from the sun and provides adequate protection for the eyes. Sunglasses for small children are not dangerous, nor necessary.
Sunscreen for children
When children need to be out in the scorching sun, parts of the skin that are not covered by clothes or shaded by a sun hat, need sunscreen. If you use a cream with protection against UVA and UVB and apply a lot on the exposed areas, there are studies that indicate that they provide good protection against skin cancer.
Which sunscreen should you choose for children?
The important thing is to choose a sunscreen with a high sun protection factor (preferably SPF50) that protects against both UVA and UVB. Physical or chemical filters are a matter of taste. As far as is known, the creams available on the market do not have dangerous side effects.
Sunscreen and vitamin D
Vitamin D production does not seem to be affected much by sunscreen. Humans can form vitamin D. Sun exposure increases vitamin D production. But we form less vitamin D the less we stay in the sun. The sad reality, however, is that it is difficult to get enough vitamin D in Sweden no matter what you do, and therefore young children should take D-drops.
Do dark-skinned children need sunscreen?
Research on whether sunscreen is beneficial for dark-skinned children is scarce. Children with dark skin have lesser risk of getting malignant skin cancer caused by UV, than fair-skinned children. But the research that exists, suggests that there are probably benefits of using sunscreen even on dark skin.
The darker color protects against sunlight. In studies comparing people with fairer skin but with different degrees of fairness, the brightest, red-haired, green / blue-eyed people have the greatest risk of skin cancer and sunburn.
Skin of all colors and shades, ages from the sun
Both fair and dark skin age from sunlight. There are several non-cancerous skin diseases that are caused by the sun and that affect dark skinned people. Shade and clothes are good regardless of skin color. Sunscreen protects the skin against aging (wrinkles, uneven pigmentation and blemished aging skin).
Protect babies from excessive heat!
Another thing to keep in mind on a sunny day, is that babies are bad at regulating their body temperature. If parents do not adapt the babies’ clothes with the temperature changes and continue to put on a knitted woolen cardigan and fixing the baby in a bunting bag even when it is 25 degrees outside, the baby can easily become overheated. Babies that become too hot, can become lethargic and may not want to eat. And if they are newborns, they can forget to breathe.
Black prams with a raised hood in the sun, become very hot on the inside. Place them in the shade, away from stroller bunting bags and blankets. Use your hands to feel the inside the stroller to see how hot it is.
Yes, it is important that babies are warm enough, but adapt their clothing to the surrounding temperature.