Are you heading somewhere hot with kids this summer? Our top tips for protecting your baby from the sun & heat
A popular choice for vacationing over the summer months can be heading off to the beach and enjoying some relaxation time with your kids, or in fact heading anywhere that might be slightly warmer or sunnier than your regular home routine!
Having grown up in Australia however, and now living in the Middle East we are all too aware of the dangers of too much sunlight or outdoor time, especially for very young children.
Understandably many parents have concerns when taking babies and toddlers into warmer climates, especially if the sun doesn’t often shine at home (we did “summer” in the UK for 9 years too, we know!). Rest assured there is nothing “harmful” about taking your baby on these sorts of adventures, but there are sensible precautions we’d recommend for both the sun and the heat to protect your baby.
Whilst this post is specifically aimed at babies, once good habits are established from a young age, you’ll find this information invaluable for many ages and stages of family travel to come.
This post is part of our baby travel advice series. Pop over and see all our helpful articles for travelling with a baby
Remember babies can’t ask when they are thirsty! Entering a warmer climate you might find baby needs feeding a lot more than at home – better they are more frequent than longer feeds (the fore-milk is more watery so better for hydration). Remember to factor in extra stop times that might be needed for feeding, and depending on how accepting the country is that you’re visiting of breastfeeding, a good nursing cover may be you best friend here.
If you are bottle-feeding, remember to boil and cool your water (even bottled water) and bring your sterilising equipment with you (unless your accommodation can provide this – bonus!) The last thing you want is the water at your destination to upset bubs belly!
Do you need to give extra water?
The popular medical advice seems to be that that babies can start to drink water from a sippy cup from age 4-6 months, but do be mindful when travelling on the water quality remark above and always pre-boil water – serve cool not cold.
Milk feeds alone for a young baby though should be enough, but an older baby 6 months+ you may want to top up. Very dry skin, lips, sunken eyes or lack of wet nappies may be a sign your tot is getting dehydrated.
Can babies have ice creams / gelato / icy poles / ice blocks?
With caution. Icy poles (or ice lolly’s for our Brits) can contain a lot of concentrated sugar and colouring, making them far from the ideal for very young children (toddlers and above though -go for it!). Gelato or ice-cream may also be ok in small doses too (though note that properly made gelato may contain eggs which can be an allergen! Thanks to Marta at Learning Escapes for enlightening me on this one!). Sucking on ice cubes may also help BUT be very careful where the ice has come from.
Stay out of the sun
Well this might be the most counterintuitive piece of advice when that’s exactly the reason you are heading somewhere hot (and no doubt reading this!), However, staying out of direct sunlight during peak times of day is the best way to deal with sunburn and heat issues with infants.
Between 10am and 4pm particularly, the suns harmful rays are at their strongest so plan your outdoor activities around early mornings and later evenings (you might just be thankful for that jet lag!!)
Slip Slop Slap
Hands up any other Aussies kids of the ’80s? I defy you to say this expression wasn’t utterly ground into your head since you were a pre-schooler!! Tackling Australia’s growing skin cancer problem, in one of the greatest health campaigns of it’s era, the Cancer Council of Victoria launched this catchy jingle with the singing seagull Sid to encourage Aussies with a huge outdoorsy lifestyle to take sensible precautions
Slip on a t-shirt
Slop on some sunscreen
Slap on a hat
SunSmart has now added “Seek” shade and “Slide” on sunnies but nothing is as catchy as the original!!
Just these 5 precautions alone can dramatically reduce damage to your skin – below is further advice on the right sort of skin protection by age group. I urge you to embed Sid’s words into your mind!! (Here’s one for the nostalgia buffs!)
Use the right skin protection
Not everyone understands the difference between UVA and UVB sun damage. So with my very non-medical expert hat on, here’s the simple explanation; UVA – or ultraviolet rays from the sun have the deep damaging effect on the skin that can lead to wrinkles and premature aging (photo-ageing). UVB rays penetrate the epidermal layer of the skin and are responsible for skin reddening and sunburn. UV radiation is considered the main cause of non-melanoma skin cancer.
So when looking to protect yourself and especially your little ones from the sun, you really need a broad/multi-spectrum sunscreen with both UVA and UVB protection – UVB only sunblock to stop sunburn is not enough. A sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15+ is recommended for example by skincaner.org – but in much sunnier climates, at least a 30+ SPF should be used.
Sensible precautions for a baby under 6 months
Infant skin contains very little melanin – the pigment that gives colour to the skin, and provides some sun protection. Young babies even with naturally darker skin can still be very susceptible to damaging effects from direct sunlight exposure. Here’s how you can help protect their skin;
- Keep baby out of all direct sunlight, especially in peak times of the day.
- Use a sun-protective cover over your stroller or infant capsule.
- On the beach, consider using a protective baby tent or sun shield to keep the direct light off baby’s skin.
- Use a sheepskin liner inside the stroller (people laughed at us when we moved from the chilly UK to the Middle East with the sheepskin liners still inside our strollers, but yes sheepskin does have temperature regulating qualities making it good for use in both summer and winter – and they’re super soft and cuddly!)
- Use UV filtering mesh shields on the windows of your car (will also assist with keeping the car cooler, along with tinting).
- Dress baby in light-weight cotton clothing that protects arms and legs. on the beach use a full sleeve-length baby rashguard.
- Use a wide-brimmed hat or bonnet that protects baby’s face, neck and ears (the earlier you get them used to the concept of wearing a hat the better, but I know some kids just simply hat them!)
- Only apply sunscreen in small amounts if there’s no other form of protection – the chemicals can be too strong for very sensitive baby skin.
Sun protection for a baby over 6 months
- Follow all the precautions outlined above – but ADD SUNSCREEN! Any areas of a baby’s skin not covered by clothing should have a sunscreen of at least SPF15+ applied. If you are worried about skin sensitivities and allergies, most major sunscreen brands come with baby-sensitive versions – but do test these on your baby’s skin before travelling. You’ll find a good kid’s sunscreen guide here.
- Don’t forget about reapplying sunscreen after swimming or excessive sweat.
- Dressing kids in UV protective clothing – especially when playing out near water this is the best form of all-over skin protection. Our kids utterly adore their Snapper Rock sun protection swimwear, a must-have for youngster beach play. (UAE readers can purchase Snapper Rock here)
- If you can convince your tot to keep them on, Baby Banz sunglasses are awesome! Just like sun hats the earlier you can convince them to wear them the better. (NB – only one out of the three Globetrotters would routinely keep his on – don’t feel like a parenting fail if they hate them!)
Other heat precautions
As well as the sun itself, don’t forget to think about the impact of heat and sweat on young children – who other than crying and moaning have no other way to tell you they may me just a bit uncomfortable with it all!
Sweat: Baby’s nappy may need changing more regularly in the heat – and use a preventative zinc-based treatment like Sudocream to prevent sweat rash or prickly heat. This can also be used on any areas of the skin prone to moisture gathering, like under their chins or in their arm and leg folds where sweat can become trapped. Perhaps baby can enjoy some nappy-free time too?
Car Safety: It goes without saying (I hope!) never, ever leave a small child unattended in a hot car – even on a mild day.
Cool sleeping: Keeping your accommodation cool, of course, will help with a restful nights sleep, and if it’s been hot out and about, a nice cool water bath or shower before bedtime might help. If your room is well air-conditioned (sometimes in hot countries you will find inside spaces are too well air-conditioned!) then a normal weight blanket or sleeping bag will suffice (room temperatures are perfect for baby around 20c). If your room is warmer than this, consider baby sleeping with just a nappy and either a lightweight muslin wrap like Aden + Anais, or a 0.5 tog sleeping bag.
Walking about: I’m all for babywearing when we travel but… after many experiences in many hot countries I can caution that this might not be the most pleasant experience for you both. Using a carrier or wrap with UV protection is sensible. If using a structured carrier, look for those with breathable material – usually sports or hiking type models are designed this way.
Based on my own experiences I’d never recommend carrying a baby for prolonged periods of time. The sweat build-up can cause terrible heat rash on both of you. I personally have a preference when travelling for taking a lay-flat style stroller with a sheepskin liner and UV cover, but I know sometimes needs must.
A final word on hot climate travel (and living)
Visiting a hot climate with a baby is a completely do-able exercise and with good parenting and planning. Babies are born and brought up all over the world in hot climates! The only other thing you do need to be careful of if staying/living for long periods – in fact, a real problem in the Middle East where women completely cover themselves – is vitamin D deficiency if you don’t get enough sun.
Particularly if breastfeeding, some babies and their mothers do not get enough sunlight so dietary supplements are needed – and it is recommended as you get older, and certainly for adults that you do get some direct exposure to sunlight every day without sunscreen (Note: I am in no way a medical practitioner nor pretend to be one – please, please always seek appropriate medical advice if you are unsure or not clear on the right mix of natural light vs staying covered and what sunscreen to use).
So get out there with your baby, sensibly enjoy the sun and start developing those healthy outdoor habits that will last you a lifetime!
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