"It takes a long time for sun exposure to cause skin cancer and premature aging. These changes accumulate over time, starting from birth," says Dr. Lichtenfeld.
Babies younger than six months are considered especially vulnerable to the effects of the sun because their skin has less protective melanin, and they have a relatively larger surface area for their size than do adults, says Dr. Sherwood. "Baby skin is also very thin compared to grown up skin," she adds.
The AAP recommends avoiding sun exposure completely for infants and dressing them in lightweight pants, long-sleeved shirts, brimmed hats, and sunglasses. Parasols, strollers, and carriages also offer protection.
Think you can gauge your child's exposure to the sun by reddening of the skin? Think again. A sunburn doesn't show for two to four hours after exposure and by then it's too late. Some symptoms of sunburn don't appear fully until 12 to 14 hours after exposure.
If a child's burn is red, warm to the touch, and painful, you can treat it with cool compresses and/or cool baths (be sure your child doesn't become chilled). You can usually give a doctor-recommended painkiller such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen to ease your child's discomfort, and be sure your child is properly hydrated, too.
If the sunburn causes fever, chills, headache, or blisters, contact your pediatrician immediately. Never apply petroleum-based jellies to the burn, since these hold in the heat and can worsen the problem.