Baby’s sensitive skin requires special consideration when exposed to the sun. A baby’s skin is thinner and more fragile and therefore quicker to experience negative effects from exposure to the sun without adequate protection. Any time you anticipate being out of the vehicle, you should preemptively apply sun protection to your baby (it is advisable to apply sun screen 30 minutes before expected exposure). Unlike adults, even five minutes of sun exposure can lead to irritation of the skin and in some cases a sun burn on a baby. A sun burn can affect your baby’s core temperature, temperament, and can lead to having to terminate a trip early. Luckily, there are many choices for protecting your baby from the sun and keeping baby comfortable.
We recommend some of the following methods:
- Sun Screen: The first level of defense, if your baby’s skin can tolerate it, is sun screen. A broad spectrum sun screen that protects against UVA and UVB rays with a sun protection factor of at least 15 should be applied any time your baby will be out in the sun for more than just a few minutes. It is important that you determine what sun screen works for you ahead of time, so that there are no surprises when you are on your trip. Your baby’s doctor can advise you on choosing a product, in particular, if your baby has sensitive skin or other conditions that may require a special sun screen. Whatever you decide on, make sure you evaluate it and its effects on your baby’s skin well ahead of your planned trip so that you have enough time to make adjustments if necessary.
- Full Coverage Light Weight Clothing: Just like mom and dad, baby can benefit greatly from performance clothing that is light weight, breathable, and full coverage. While it is more difficult to find, many performance clothing companies make performance baby gear in sizes as small as 3 months. We had an excellent experience with gear from REI for infants, and at the toddler stage, Columbia made superb gear. The baby gear is made from the same quality materials and are as versatile and durable as the adult versions. These aren’t reduced baby versions of gear, rather a full miniaturization. The clothing has UV treatment, wickering properties, quick dry elements, and many of the very useful features we love in adult clothing. With sun protection built into light weight clothing, you can help baby stay cool, dry, and happy while helping you reduce the amount of clothing you take due to the ability to quickly wash and dry the gear.
- Hats: Covering baby’s head and protecting the face are very important steps to take. This helps keep the body’s core temperature down, which for infants, is very important because they are not capable of efficiently controlling their body temperature through sweating like toddlers and adults can. Luckily, you can find lightweight hats that are UV resistant, comfortable, and provide adequate coverage for the head and face in many stylish packages. It is very important that you choose a lightweight breathable hat, and not the typical baby hat that may end up increasing your baby’s core temp.
- Continual Sun Coverage in Above Average Temps: When its hotter than ambient and you are out in the sun, it is important to provide continuous sun coverage as long as possible during the peak sun times (10am – 4pm). This can be things like a conopy on a baby carrier or an umbrella or sun shade deployed separately This helps provide shade, protection from the sun, and does not make baby hot. Plan ahead based on your trip so that there is always a solution for providing shade.
- Water: Since infants can’t sweat, you can aid them in cooling down by manually splashing their skin to help cool them down. Our doctor also recommended giving baby a little water or electrolyte solution when doing any hiking. Talk to your doctor about supplementing water in these specific situation based on your baby’s age.
- Sun Glasses: They’re not just to make baby look cool, though admittedly, most babies look cool in sunglasses. The UV blocking properties of baby shades can be a real aid in protecting their sensitive eyes from incidental UV damage. On bright days, or days where you’ll see a lot of sun reflections like when playing in the snow, consider protecting baby’s eyes with a pair of sun glasses.
Sun protection is critical, but ultimately, you want to avoid the sun and heat as much as possible until baby is very well acclimated to such weather. Obviously, a baby accustomed to the heat will do better in the heat than one accustomed to colder climates, but they all have their limits that you should stay well within. Since Overland travel is mostly done via vehicle, make sure that your air conditioning system is in full working order so that you can keep baby cool and happy whenever it is possible. Enjoy the outdoors, and remember, there are babies being born out in many countries with extreme temperatures and conditions we wouldn’t consider for our little ones, and they make it just fine. They are resilient creatures, and a little exposure is certainly OK!