Taking your baby out in the sun and heat can be daunting. It is vital that you protect their sensitive skin. The NHS recommends that babies up to the age of 6 months be kept out of the sun as much as possible.

The sun tends to be strongest between the hours of 11am and 3pm so it might be useful to plan some indoor activities during these times such as visiting museums or areas with a lot of shade and then visit the pool or beach earlier or later in the day. If you are out in the heat a lot during the day make sure to take breaks to cool your baby down, for example in air conditioned restaurants, cafes, malls or museums. Babies and toddlers should be encouraged to play in the shade as much as possible as they burn easier due to their thinner skin.

Younger children and babies are also more susceptible to overheating, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Loose, light cotton clothing should be worn and a hat with a wide brim and a flap to protect the neck is recommended to ensure that your baby does not burn. Try to cover your baby’s skin as much as possible with lightweight clothing with long sleeves and legs to ensure that as little skin as possible is exposed. Babies should also wear protective sunglasses. Make sure to pick glasses with the ‘CE’ mark. It is also advisable to use a parasol or sun shade on your baby’s buggy with built in UV protection. The Ray Shade is available in Boots and is lightweight and ideal for travel. If you are lying on the beach in an unshaded area a sun umbrella or UV sun tent can protect against burning.

Sun Block for Babies

Sunscreen or sun blocks are not recommended for babies under 6 months as they can be absorbed into the skin so keep them in the shade or use a sunshade, sun parasol and or UV sun tent to protect them. When choosing a sunscreen for older babies it is advisable to pick one with either a titanium oxide or zinc oxide base. These are not absorbed and sit on the skin’s surface acting as a barrier between your child’s skin and the sun. Other sun creams can be absorbed into the skin and may cause irritation if ingested whereas sun blocks will not cause much harm if your baby puts his hands in his mouth. If you are not using sun block and opt instead for other sun creams make sure you put it on your baby’s skin at least 15 minutes before going out in the sun to ensure that it is fully absorbed. When applying sunblock make sure to cover all exposed skin, in particular the ears, the back of the neck, shoulders and the tips of feet.

A baby is particularly susceptible to burning in the water and UV protective swim suits that cover your baby’s arms and legs with built in factor 50 UV protection can offer additional sun protection. Even waterproof sun block should be reapplied immediately after coming out of the water.

Babies with Sunburn

Sunburn can happen even on cloudy days or in snow so it is important to always protect your child’s skin when outdoors. Sun burn tends to show up 2 to 4 hours after exposure and peaks 12 to 14 hours later. It usually fades in 2 to 3 days. Where sunburn occurs, skin will look red and feel hot to the touch, even if you try to cool it. If sunburn is severe, skin may blister or swell and a fever may develop. If your child is under 6 months or if blisters start to develop on a child over 6 months, to contact a doctor as your child could have 2nd degree burns. A doctor will be able to dress the area and ensure that infection does not occur.

Treating sunburn

  1. To treat sunburn in babies and toddlers it is important to keep your child hydrated (or rehydrated). If the baby is under 6 months use breastmilk or formula or if over 6 months use water and other fluids.
  2. Soak a flannel or a muslin in cool water and wring it out. Place it on the burned area for 15 minutes a few times a day.
  3. Another option would be to place your baby in a tepid bath to sooth the pain. A teaspoon of bicarbonate soda can be added to make it more soothing.
  4. Aloe Vera gel can also be used to soothe the skin and promote healing. Never use ice or Vaseline on sunburned skin. Vaseline closes the skin off to the air which does not allow the skin to breath and heal.
  5. If your baby develops a fever, paracetamol can be used to bring it down once your baby is over 2 months old and weighs over 4 kilograms. Once your child is over 3 months and weighs over 5 kilograms ibuprofen can be used.

Dehydration in Babies

Prolonged exposure to high temperatures and humidity without proper rest and fluids can lead to dehydration. The signs of dehydration include lack of energy, fatigue, thirst, dry lips and tongue and feeling overheated. It is important that babies and toddlers keep drinking fluids to ensure that they do not dehydrate. Where a baby or toddler does become dehydrated they should be moved to a cool place, and given liquids. Excess clothing should also be removed. If not it could lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke.

Heat Exhaustion & Heat Stroke in Babies

Severe cases of sunburn and dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion. If a baby vomits or loses consciousness, seek medical help immediately. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke affect babies in hot weather more because they sweat less and are more vulnerable to the effects of dehydration. Heat exhaustion is not as serious as heat stroke but without proper intervention may lead onto heat stroke. The most common symptoms of heat exhaustion are dark urine, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, headache, muscle or abdominal cramps, vomiting, nausea, diarrhoea, pale skin, profuse sweating and a rapid heartbeat. If your baby or toddler develops any of these symptoms make sure to seek medical help immediately. Try to cool your baby down using cool water on a flannel or muslin and give them plenty of fluids.