In Depth

How to keep your baby cool in the sun

Make sure your children are safe during the daytime heatwave and comfortable at night

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Keeping babies and young children safe and comfortable when the mercury rises is a problem for many parents.

Excessive exposure to the sun can cause short-term misery in the form of painful sunburn, heat-induced lethargy and overheated tantrums, but it can also increase a child's risk of developing skin cancer in the future.

Babies under six months old are at even more risk - their levels of melanin, the pigment which gives the skin protection from UV rays, are still developing, meaning their skin burns very easily. Experts say they should be kept out of direct exposure to sunlight whenever possible.

Even past the age of six months, children should be kept out of the sun between 11am and 3pm, when it is at its strongest.

Young children should also use higher levels of sunscreen to protect their sensitive skin. NHS England recommends adults and children use sunscreen of at least factor 15, but higher factor creams will offer even more protection. Specialist sunscreens aimed at babies and young children go up as high as factor 50.

Parents should also regularly reapply their children's sunscreen throughout the day when outside, especially if they've been in water, such as swimming in the sea or playing in a paddling pool.

Also, experts say to use sunscreen even on overcast summer days. According to the US-based Skin Cancer Foundation, up to 80 per cent of UV rays can pass through clouds.

Babies and young children should also wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing during the hot weather and cover their shoulders and back of the neck, which burn very easily. Sunhats will help protect their delicate heads, too.

As with adults and children of all ages, it is important to keep babies and young children hydrated. Parents should make sure they consume plenty of fluids, whether in the form of milk for infants or water or very diluted fruit juice for babies over six months.

Warning signs of dehydration in babies include drowsiness, dry mouth, dark and/or less frequent urine and faster breathing. The NHS has more information on symptoms and what to do if an infant becomes dehydrated.

At night, the most comfortable temperature for a baby's bedroom is between 16C and 20C. However, this can be difficult to achieve in the summer months, so here are a few tips for keeping babies and young children cool during hot summer nights:

  • A cool bath before bed
  • Keeping bedroom curtains drawn and blinds down
  • Running a fan or air conditioning unit
  • Moving cot into a cooler room
  • Keep nightclothes and bedding to a minimum
  • Using cotton rather than synthetic material for clothing and bedding
  • Cooling a cuddly toy or blanket in the fridge

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