Sun protection for infants

Mother and Twin Babies at the BeachWe all know that sunscreen is important for protecting the skin from sunburns, which over time can lead to melanoma, a deadly form of skin cancer, but did you know that blistering sunburns prior to the age of 18 double this risk? This is why it is especially important to protect our kids while they are exploring and swimming outside this summer.

The best recommendations include limiting sun exposure between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. when the sun’s rays are the strongest and wearing a wide-brim hat to protect the face and neck. These are especially true for infants younger than 6 months who should be kept in the shade as much as possible. If your family is at the pool or the beach, these infants should be shaded under an umbrella or tree and should wear a wide-brim hat, long lightweight pants and swim shirt if possible. Look for products with a UPF (ultraviolet protective factor) of 15-50. Like the rest of us, babies should wear sunscreen with at least SPF 30 on sun-exposed areas but it should be limited to very small areas of the body in those under 6 months as a last resort to protect areas that cannot be shaded if baby must be outside. Sunscreens for these infants should be limited to products made primarily of zinc oxide or titanium dioxide, which are not absorbed and are less irritating to the skin.

When at the beach, also put a towel or blanket under the baby to minimize the sun rays reflecting back onto the baby from the sand.

Sunscreen should be reapplied every 2 hours and children should be given breaks from the sun.  Again, this is especially important for infants who should not drink water.

In the case of sunburn, older children should be offered water to maintain hydration.  All children can have a cool to lukewarm bath for comfort, acetaminophen for pain, and topical lotions like Vaseline to help lock in moisture to the skin.  Avoid irritating topical treatments like lidocaine.  Call your doctor if your infant has a sunburn.


For further information about UofL Pediatrics, visit the practice website. To learn more about Dr. Stiff, visit her physician profile. If you don’t have a pediatrician, we would love to see you in one of our metro Louisville locations. You can request an appointment online, or call (502) 588-6000.