Sun safety

Plunket National Child Safety Advisor Sue Campbell

Like many of you, all of us at Plunket are looking forward to long, lazy summer days. I’ve got a few good books stacked next to my bed, long walks planned and I’m looking forward to time with friends and family. 

While summer often means family outings and days at the beach, it can also mean an increase to sun exposure. Here in New Zealand we can have high levels of ultraviolet (UV) radiation, which can cause skin and eye damage. So below are a few tips to keep in mind to keep your baby and your whole family safe.

Keep infants out of the sun as much as possible from September to April, especially between 10 am and 4 pm. When that’s not possible, we suggest reducing exposure of infants to UVR by planning the day’s activities to maximise your infant’s sun protection. That might include:

  • Cover as much of your baby’s skin as possible with loose-fitting clothes and wraps made from closely woven fabrics.
  • Choose a broad-brim or legionnaire style hat or bucket hat so your baby’s face, neck and ears are protected.
  • Make sure your baby’s pram and play area are fully shaded. The material used should cast a dark shadow.

Be cautious about using sunscreen on babies under one year of age. If there is a risk that your baby might be sunburned, apply a SPF30+ broad spectrum sunscreen on areas of the skin not covered by clothing. If toddlers must be in the sun, use recommended sunscreen on uncovered skin. Remember to make sure the sunscreen you use is water resistant if they are playing in water.

It is a good idea to talk with your pharmacist about sunscreen use. If you do need to use it on your baby, try a small amount on their skin to check for a reaction before applying it more widely to exposed skin. The use of any sunscreen should stop immediately if any unusual reaction is observed.

By taking a few precautionary steps you are protecting your child from sunburn and the longer-term damage that can be done by UVR – and that can make a truly perfect summer holiday for everyone in your family.

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