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Infants and Sun Exposure



I have some questions about infants and sun protection:

  • Can I use sunscreen (spray) for my 11-month old baby? If yes, how much and for how long before the exposing her to the sun?
  • Does being immersed in the swimming pool`s water makes things worse in terms of sunburning risks? If yes, how to counteract? Does it help to put a shirt or hat (or both) on the 11-month old baby?
  • How old should a baby be to start wearing sunglasses?


Dr. Kevin Cooper

Sun protection for infants begins with avoidance of sun exposure altogether, hat, protective clothing, and shade. Supplemental protection with sunscreen can be used. Creams with SPF 15-30 are generally appropriate for babies, to minimize irritation associated with higher concentrations of sunscreens and stabilizers in higher SPF products. Testing the product on a small area of the baby’s skin to be sure it is not irritating can also be useful. Sprays can contain alcohols, which may sting or irritate baby skin.

If baby is in a pool or otherwise getting wet, the sunscreen can come off faster, so be sure to re-apply and protect from sunlight as soon as soon as possible. A UV protective shirt (look for a UPF on the label) is highly effective solution for the trunk and arms, reducing exposure to the sun, a shirt also prevents sun damage from missed areas or thin application spots that are possible when using sunscreen only. A hat that stays on and can get wet is very effective for the head, but remember that there is reflection of sunlight from the surface of the water that can bounce up , under the hat, so it is still necessary to limit exposure. If your baby tolerates sunglasses, there is certainly no harm.

Dr. Margaret Bobonich

First, the American Academy of Pediatrics provides water and sun safety tips for children to be used by parents and caregivers.

Parents should avoid direct sun exposure for infants under 6 months old. Inants should be kept in a cool and shaded area.

For infants over 6 month and children, avoiding direct sun exposure between the hours of 10am and 4pm is the safest practice. However, if they are in direct sun light, parents should try to use light weight, tightly woven clothing and a brimmed hat that covers their ears and back of neck. Apply a broad-spectrum (UVA and UVB) sunscreen with a SPF of 15 or higher to skin exposed areas. Sunblock or sunscreen should be applied to dry skin 30 minutes prior to exposure and reapplied every 2 hours (more frequently if sweating or swimming). In your 11 month, I would recommend a physical sunblock, zinc or titanium, applied by had to avoid overspray of chemical blocks that can irritate eyes.

The water can pose a danger in that ultraviolet rays can penetrate the water. Equally important, the water can reflect UV so that children can get burns while not in the water. There are many companies that now provide sun protective clothing that “looks cool” and provides protection both in and out of the water. Sunglasses should be well fitted, child-sized with >97% UVA and UVB protection. The fit and child’s willingness to wear the glasses will determine the age appropriateness.

For more information:

Go to the Skin Care and Diseases health topic.