Spending time outdoors is a summertime tradition for people of all ages. Sunny summer afternoons may be especially cherished in 2020, when people across the globe have been forced to spend more time indoors as they adhere to social distancing guidelines implemented to prevent the spread of the COVID-19 virus.
Parents of infants may be extra excited to get outdoors this summer. Chances to get out and about don’t come around very often for parents of infants, and those chances may be even more rare as social distancing guidelines remain in place. But before parents rush out the door to soak up some summer sun, it’s imperative that they take steps to protect their tiny tots from UV rays.
• Avoid exposing infants to the sun. The Skin Cancer Foundation notes that infants’ skin is especially sensitive to the sun, so the organization advises parents to shield children six months and younger from the sun rather than using sunscreen. Instead of applying sunscreen to their infants, parents should keep them out of the sun entirely. Seek shade between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., when the sun’s rays are especially intense. When taking infants out in their strollers, make sure they are shaded at all times and avoid walking on the sunny side of the street.
• Dress babies for the sun. The SCF advises parents to dress their babies in brimmed hats and lightweight clothing that fully covers their arms and legs. Dressing babies for the sun may seem like common sense, but the SCF notes that researchers at the University of Miami found that only 43 percent of parents consistently cover their babies with hats, and even fewer (40 percent) cover babies with long-sleeved shirts and pants when going out in the sun.
• Consider sunglasses. Sunglasses are another way parents can protect their children from the sun’s harmful ultraviolet rays. Sunglasses can be an alternative for parents whose infants keep taking off their hats, as many baby-sized sunglasses are equipped with elastic straps to keep the glasses on. Sunglasses may be vital because the melanin in infants’ eyes is still forming, and that development can be adversely affected if infants’ eyes are exposed to UV rays.
• Introduce sunscreen at six months. The SCF advises parents to begin applying sunscreen to their infants when their children reach six months of age. Choose a broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen with a minimum sun protection factor (SPF) of 15. The SCF notes that sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and titanium dioxide are good choices because these physical filters do not rely on absorption of chemicals and are therefore less likely to cause a skin reaction. The SCF also advises testing the sunscreen on your baby’s wrist before applying it all over the body. This can indicate if the product irritates the child’s skin and needs to be replaced, or if it’s safe to use.
In the rush to get outside, parents should make sure they don’t forget to take every step necessary to protect their infants from UV exposure.