Sun Protection

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Protecting Children’s Skin

Children’s skin is more delicate and more sensitive to UV damage than adults.

It has been estimated that we can get between 50% and 75% of our lifetime sun exposure before we are 18 years old – and children spend time outdoors while at home, at school, on trips, outings and holidays.

Sunburn during childhood increases the risk of skin cancer in later life. Damage caused by over exposure to UV rays can take 20 years or more to develop into skin cancer.

Top tips

For babies

Keep babies under six months out of direct sunlight. Their skin burns much faster than adults’ and even in the shade can be burned by reflected UV rays. Use clothing, hats and shade to prevent exposure to UV radiation. Do not leave babies or small children in a car for shade as they can rapidly become dangerously overheated!

If exposure to sunlight is unavoidable, use only small amounts of sunscreen on unprotected areas. Always use a sunscreen which has been specially formulated for babies with a high SPF 25 or greater and UVA 4 or 5 star. If your child’s skin has an adverse reaction to the sunscreen, stop using immediately.


Choose clothes that cover children’s arms, legs and neck. Look for lightweight materials to allow air flow and with a tight weave to reduce penetration by UV rays. Several manufacturers now provide sun-safe wear, especially swim-wear, with a UV rating known as ultraviolet protection factor (UPF).

Choose fabrics with a UPF greater than 15. Always check worn, wet and loose weave materials for sun safety. Hold the garment up to the light – if the light passes through easily then so can UV rays and your child’s skin can burn.


Try to get children used to wearing hats. Start early with soft hats that fold comfortably while your baby sleeps. Keep them in place with a tie or velcro chin strap. Always check ties to avoid risk of choking. Broad-brimmed hats or hats with a legionnaire flap give more protection.


Ensure childrens’ sunglasses provide UV protection and have a recognised safety standard mark.

Maintain Hydration

Children, especially babies, can become dehydrated in warm sunny weather. Always have extra drinks to keep them hydrated and cool.


Children’s skin is extremely sensitive. Always use a sunscreen with a high SPF 25 or greater and UVA 4 or 5 star. If your child’s skin has an adverse reaction to the sunscreen, stop using immediately.

Follow the Care in the Sun code

  • Stay out of the sun when the UV rays are strongest (11am-3pm in Northern Ireland). Find out how to check the UV levels here
  • Even on a cool day with light cloud cover, UV radiation can cause skin damage
  • Cover up with clothing, hats and sunglasses
  • Use a sunscreen with high SPF and UVA protection
  • Keep hydrated
  • Discourage sunbathing. Practise what you preach – parents are role models