Sunburn Prevention in Toddlers

Parents and caregivers of toddlers should apply sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of 15 or higher and UVA/UVB protection at least 30 minutes before the child goes outside. Be sure to apply sunscreen to the ears, nose, and the tops of feet, and remember that the lips also need protection. Even waterproof sunscreen must be reapplied frequently throughout the day.

Sunscreen alone is not enough to completely protect children from UV rays and radiation. Choosing clothing that covers the skin, such as long-sleeved shirts and pants, will help. If long-sleeved items are not practical, use extra sunscreen and encourage the child to spend more time in the shade. Hats with brims can help protect the face, scalp, ears, and neck. Sunglasses should be worn to protect eyes and should be designed to block as many UVA and UVB rays as possible.

Sun protection is necessary even on cloudy days. Clouds can filter UV rays, but do not block them. Pay attention to the time of day and the strength of the sun before heading outside with a toddler. UV rays are most dangerous at midday, so it's best to avoid the sun and stay indoors, if possible. If toddlers must be outside during the middle of the day, be sure to find some shade under a tree, umbrella, or tent.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 27 Aug 2008

Last Modified: 06 Oct 2015