Toddler in sun hat

Being out in the sun with kids is funny, messy and guaranteed to bring out the smiles. Yet it’s also pretty stressful making sure you keep their tiny bodies safe in the sunshine. Here’s what you need to know about sun safety. 

There’s no doubt the summer months are good for adults. We get a much-needed boost of vitamin D (NHS, 2015) and hang out with friends at barbecues. Plus we’re much more active, hopping on our bikes or heading off on long walks. 

When it comes to kids, summer is a bit trickier. Keeping them cool, making sure they don’t get sunburnt and persuading them to keep that hat on can be a parenting challenge. Here’s a quick how-to guide for the summer months.

 How to…avoid sunburn

1. Stay in the shade

Set up your picnic under a tree or come armed with your parasol because shade, especially when you have a small child, is your friend.

Particularly between 11am and 3pm when the sun is strongest (NHS, 2017a). Remember that kids can get their vitamin D from supplements (NHS, 2015).

Be wary of hoods or light sheets to shade a buggy in direct sunlight though: they can make the inside really hot. Instead, avoid leaving your baby in their buggy in direct sunlight. 

2. Be extra strict under six months

Babies’ skin is much more sensitive than adult skin. Damage caused by repeated exposure to sunlight could lead to skin cancer in later life. Keep babies under the age of six months out of direct sunlight. 

3. Cover up

Dress your kids in loose cotton clothes like oversized T-shirts with sleeves. Floppy, wide-brimmed hats that shade their face and neck are also good. Protect your child's eyes with sunglasses that meet the British Standard  and carry the CE mark on their label (NHS, 2016a)

4. Watch their neck and shoulders

Be especially careful to protect your child's shoulders and the back of their neck when they're playing: these are the most common areas for sunburn (NHS, 2017a). Where possible, choose fabrics that don’t have gaps that allow the sun through.

5. Slap on the sunscreen

Sunscreen is not an alternative to covering up but it’s a good extra (Southern Health, 2018). Use it liberally, carefully and repeatedly on all exposed skin, even on cloudy or overcast days. Apply it half an hour before you go outside (NICE, 2011)

Choose one that has a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or above and is effective against UVA and UVB. If kids are swimming, use a waterproof sunblock and re-apply as soon as they’re out of the water (NHS, 2016a)

If you’re worried about not being able to apply factor 15 thickly enough on your wriggling child, choose a higher SPF sunscreen like factor 30.

Sunburn remedies and treatment

If your child does get sunburn, get out of the sun as soon as possible – head indoors or into the shade (NHS, 2017b).

You can usually treat mild sunburn at home by:
•    Cooling the skin with a cold bath or shower, sponging it with cold water, or holding a cold flannel to it.
•    Using lotions containing aloe vera to soothe and moisturise. 
•    Giving your child plenty of fluids to cool them down and prevent dehydration.
•    Giving your little one child-friendly painkillers like ibuprofen or paracetamol to relieve pain.

(NHS, 2017b; NHS, 2018) 

If your child feels unwell or the skin swells badly or blisters, get medical advice immediately (NHS, 2017b). Tempting as it is to get back outside, stay well out of the sun until all signs of redness have gone.

This page was last reviewed in March 2018.

Further information

NCT's helpline offers practical and emotional support in all areas of pregnancy, birth and early parenthood: 0300 330 0700.

You might find attending one of NCT's Early Days groups helpful as they give you the opportunity to explore different approaches to important parenting issues with a qualified group leader and other new parents in your area.

Make friends with other parents-to-be and new parents in your local area for support and friendship by seeing what NCT activities are happening nearby.

NHS. (2015) How to get vitamin D from sunlight. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/Livewell/Summerhealth/Pages/vitamin-D-sunlight.aspx [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

NHS. (2016a) Sunscreen and sun safety. Available from:  https://www.nhs.uk/livewell/skin/pages/sunsafe.aspx [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

NHS. (2016b) Heatwave: how to cope in hot weather. Available from:  https://www.nhs.uk/livewell/summerhealth/pages/heatwave.aspx  [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

NHS. (2017a) Sun safety for children. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/pregnancy-and-baby/safety-in-the-sun [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

NHS. (2017b) Sunburn. Available from: https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/sunburn/ [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

NHS. (2018) Heat exhaustion and heatstroke. Available from:   https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/heat-exhaustion-heatstroke/ [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

Southern Health. (2018) Sun safety Available from: http://www.southernhealth.nhs.uk/health-and-wellbeing/childrens-health/sun-safety/ [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

NHS. (2015b) How can I keep my baby safe during hot weather? Available from:  https://www.nhs.uk/chq/Pages/1955.aspx [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

NICE. (2016) Sunlight exposure: risks and benefits. NICE guideline [NG34] Available from:  https://www.nice.org.uk/guidance/ng34/chapter/2-Supporting-information-for-practitioners [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

Public Health England. (2017) Beat the heat: staying stafe in hot weather. Available from:  https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/615548/Beat_the_heat_leaflet_2017.pdf [Accessed 1st March 2018] 

 

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