Sun Protection for the Baby Years
Don't you just cringe when you see a sunburned infant? It happens. But so do car wrecks, airplane crashes and child drowning. Too melodramatic? Not really. Fact is, just one blistering sunburn during childhood doubles a child's chances of developing melanoma later in life. And given that melanoma is the most deadly form of cancer, this is a gravely serious statistic.

Dr. Perry Robins, president of the Skin Cancer Foundation, believes there's no excuse for overexposing a child to the sun. "Children should not be getting sunburned at any age, especially since there are a range of very effective sun protection methods that can used," Robins said in a statement on the foundation's Web site. "Parents need to be extra vigilant about sun protection all the time."

Sun Protection Tips by Age

So, what's the best way to protect your child from the sun? The Skin Cancer Foundation offers these tips:

Age 6 months and younger:

It's simple: they should not be in sun. An infant's skin is too sensitive for sunscreen. At this age, an infant's skin possesses little melanin, the pigment that gives color to skin, hair and eyes and provides some sun protection--making them especially susceptible to the sun's damaging effects.

  • Practice prevention. In your vehicle, use removable mesh window shields to keep direct sunlight from coming in. Better yet, invest in window tinting with a high UV rating.

  • If you take a walk, go before 10 a.m. or after 4 p.m., and ensure that your stroller is equipped with a sun-protective cover

  • Dress your infant in lightweight fabrics that cover both the arms and the legs.

  • Have your child wear a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet, which protects the baby's face, neck and ears.

Age 6-12 monhts:

Note the tips above, but now is the time to introduce sunscreen.

  • Use a broad-spectrum SPF 15 (or higher) sunscreen to areas left uncovered such as baby's hands.

  • It's important to apply sunscreen 30 minutes before going outside and to reapply every two hours or after swimming or excessive sweating.