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Information and inspiration for parents and caregivers of babies, toddlers and preschoolers

Throwin’ shade at the sun: protecting your kids outdoors

Mom and toddler sitting underneath a sun shade umbrella

As Arizonans, we have learned to avoid the sun as much as possible. We take a lot of precautions too, from endlessly looping a parking lot in order to find a space with even the slightest amount of shade, to running lunchtime errands at 5 a.m. You might say hiding from the sun is a favorite pastime of ours.

We do it to escape the heat, and also because UV radiation from the sun is the number one cause of skin cancer.

For our young children, protection against sun exposure is even more important. No matter where they live, babies, infants and toddlers are especially sensitive to sun-related skin damage, and they rely completely on their caretakers for prevention. To put it simply, We are their sun protection.

Things you can do

Overheating is no fun, no matter your age. But, it can pose unique risks for children, causing heat-related illnesses like heat rash and heat exhaustion. It’s important to keep your kiddos cool when they play or spend time outside. Planning in advance will help make sure your kiddos stay safe and sound from the sun. 

  • Bring water. Make sure your child drinks cool water throughout their playtime. This will keep them hydrated and help regulate their body temperature.
  • Have your children wear sun protection. That includes broad spectrum sunscreen (look for those words on the packaging), and a wide-brimmed hat.
  • Dress them in clothing that keeps skin cool and dry. Try loose-fitting clothing that allows air to flow through key areas that can be prone to heat rash – the armpits, neck, thighs, and elbows.
  • Avoid all sun exposure if your child is less than six months old. If they must go outside, keep them in a shaded stroller and out of direct sunlight.
  • For older children, avoid going outside when the sun is at its peak. Peak sun occurs typically between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
  • Use fans when possible and take breaks in air conditioned areas. A portable fan can help provide much needed relief from the hot sun. Then, after a few minutes of play, try finding a shady or air conditioned area to take a quick break.

Screen your sunscreen

  1. Choose the highest SPF (Sun Protection Factor) you possibly can.
  2. Choose a broad spectrum formula. This protects against both UVB and UVA rays. UVA rays can go through clothing, glass and skin.
  3. Applying a thick layer of sunscreen is as important as the SPF number.
  4. Apply 20-30 minutes before going out in the sun for best protection.
  5. Keep track of time and re-apply approximately every two hours.

All it takes is a little knowledge and a few simple steps each time you walk out the door to protect your little ones from the sun.

Learn more about sun protection for children


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