Sun protection for babies and children

Babies and children are at particular risk of sunburn and skin damage because of their delicate skin. Exposure to UV radiation during the first 15 years of life greatly increases the risk of developing skin cancer later in life.

Your child’s sensitive skin is especially vulnerable to UV radiation. Cancer Council NSW recommends that children under the age of 12 months are not exposed to direct sunlight when UV levels are 3 and above. You can check your local UV levels and the recommended sun protection times (when UV levels are 3 and above) using the free SunSmart app or weather section of most newspapers.

Protect your child’s skin by:

  • Cover as much of your children’s skin as possible with loose-fitting clothes made from tightly-woven fabrics.
  • Slap on a broad brim, bucket or legionnaire style hat that protects the face, ears and back of the neck. Hats are available for babies that crumple easily when they put their head down.
  • Provide shade for prams and strollers.
  • Plan the day’s activities to reduce your children’s exposure to the sun, especially between 10am and 2pm (11am and 3pm in daylight saving time).
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible. Even in the shade, use other forms of sun protection to reduce exposure from reflected UV radiation from surfaces such as sand or concrete.
  • Apply SPF30+ or higher, broad-spectrum and water-resistant sunscreen on any exposed areas of skin.

Using sunscreen on babies and children

Cancer Council recommends protecting babies and children’s skin with physical barriers such as wraps, clothing, hats and using shade as much as possible. If your baby or child is going to be exposed to the sun, apply sunscreen to those small areas of skin not covered by wraps, clothing and a hat.

Babies aged under 6 months have highly absorptive skin and the Australasian College of Dermatologist recommends minimising use of sunscreen. Always usage test any product first on a small area of your baby or child’s skin for any negative reactions and apply sunscreen to those areas of exposed skin that can’t be covered with hats and clothing. If your baby or child reacts to sunscreen, seek advice from your doctor or chemist.

When you’re out and about:

  • Check your children often to ensure they are well protected. Adjust covers on prams and strollers to make sure babies remain shaded.
  • Encourage your children to play in the shade. Remember even in shade, scattered or reflected UV radiation can cause skin damage.
  • Keep children’s hats on.
  • Reapply sunscreen every two hours or more often if wiped or washed off.
  • Be a role model for your child and practice good sun protection behaviors yourself.

Sun protection isn’t just for summer 

In NSW, UV levels remain 3 and above for most or all of the year round – even on cool or cloudy days. Check the the SunSmart app or a newspaper daily for your local UV levels and recommended sun protection times.