Most parents know the importance of slathering their kids in sunscreen, but the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is advising parents not to put sunscreen on infants younger than 6 months of age. Babies’ skin is thinner than adults’ and children’s and absorbs the active, chemical ingredients in sunscreen easier. Plus, infants have a higher surface-area to body-weight ratio compared to older children and adults, which means they are more sensitive to exposure to the chemicals in sunscreen. Both of these increase their chances of having an allergic reaction or inflammation.
The best approach is to keep infants younger than 6 months of age out of the sun, especially during the hours of 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the ultraviolet (UV) rays are the strongest. Babies should be kept in the shade, under an umbrella with a brimmed hat and lightweight long-sleeved and long-legged clothing to cover the skin and prevent sunburn.
Younger infants also do not sweat like older children and adults, so they are at greater risk of becoming overheated. They are also more at risk for becoming dehydrated, so parents should be sure to offer them more formula or breast milk. The water content in both will help keep babies well hydrated between feedings.
Parents should also avoid putting insect repellants with DEET on infants, particularly on their hands, as infants tend to put their hands in their mouth. DEET should absolutely not be used in infants younger than 2 months, according to the AAP.
If your baby is becoming sunburned, get out of the sun right away and apply cold compresses to the area.