• Mayo Clinic Minute

    Mayo Clinic Minute: Tips for protecting babies from harmful UV rays

Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the U.S., and it only takes one blistering sunburn during childhood or adolescence to nearly double a person's chance of developing melanoma later in life, according to the American Academy of Dermatology Association. Since babies are much more prone to sunburn than older kids, it's especially important to protect them from the sun's harmful ultraviolet (UV) rays.

May is Melanoma and Skin Cancer Awareness Month. In this Mayo Clinic Minute, Dr. Megha Tollefson, a Mayo Clinic pediatric dermatologist, offers tips for keeping babies safe outdoors.

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"Sunburns can be very painful," explains Dr. Tollefson. They can be a setup for infection if they're fairly severe."

While sunburns are thought to be short-term concerns, there are also long-term risks to sun exposure.

"The more UV exposure a child gets — especially the younger in life that it starts — and the more sunburns they have, the higher their risk for skin cancer later in life," says Dr. Tollefson.

Sun protection in the first 20 years of life is the most crucial for protecting against long-term skin cancer risk.

For infants, it's best to avoid peak sun hours from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. If that's not possible, cover the baby with shade or long-sleeved clothing and a hat.

Dr. Tollefson also recommends using sunscreen on areas of exposed skin.

"We would recommend that, at that age, parents use the sunscreens that have physical blockers rather than chemical blockers because they're better for sensitive skin," she says.

Look for these ingredients when selecting a sunscreen for baby:

  • Titanium dioxide
  • Zinc oxide

Remember to reapply sunscreen every two hours or right after swimming or sweating.

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