Kids Health Info

Sun safety

  • Sun safety

    Australia has high rates of skin cancer, which makes sun protection very important for us all. Ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can cause sunburn, skin damage and eye damage. High UV exposure in the first 10 years of life can double the risk of melanoma.

    Sun protection times

    UV radiation isn’t like the sun’s light or heat, which we can see and feel. This means UV can be damaging our skin without us realising – it is important not to rely on temperature to decide if you need sun protection.

    Check the sun protection rating before heading out (see the free SunSmart app or Bureau of Meteorology) – when the UV index is 3 (moderate) or higher, make sure skin is protected.

    Sun safety

    Being sun smart is a simple and effective way to reduce the risk of skin cancer.

    Cover skin:

    Put on clothing that covers as much skin as possible. Choose lightweight, loose-fitting clothing that won’t make your child too hot.

    Use sunscreen: 

    Use SPF30 or higher broad-spectrum, water-resistant sunscreen on your child’s face, arms, hands and any other skin that is not covered. Apply sunscreen 20 minutes before going outside and reapply every two hours. Sunscreen does not completely block out all UV radiation and should never be the only method of sun protection.  

    Wear a hat: 

    Choose a hat that shades your child’s face, back of the neck, eyes and ears, and is a suitable size for your child’s head – broadbrimmed, Legionnaire or bucket hats are best. Baseball caps and visors are not recommended. 

    Find shade:

    Try to use shade whenever possible. If you can, choose a place for your child to play that is in the shade, such as under a tree, shade sail or umbrella. During the warmer months, from September to April, it’s best to save trips to the playground, park or beach for early morning and late afternoon. UV radiation can burn even when you are in the shade, so it is important you and your child wear sunscreen, a hat and appropriate clothing.

    Wear sunglasses: 

    Choose wrap-around sunglasses that meet the Australian Standard AS/NZS 1067. A soft elastic strap will help to keep sunglasses in place for babies and toddlers.

    Sunscreen and babies

    Babies under 12 months should not be exposed to direct sun when UV levels reach 3 or higher.

    The Australasian College of Dermatologists does not recommend the widespread use of sunscreen on infants under six months. Protection such as shade, clothing and broad-brimmed hats are the best protection for infants, with sunscreen used on very small areas of skin. 

    Some parents worry about their child’s skin reacting to sunscreen. There are many sunscreens made for babies or toddlers that are gentle on sensitive skin. Test the sunscreen on a small area of your child’s skin to make sure they don’t have a reaction.

    Treatment for sunburn

    It only takes 15 minutes for your child to get sunburned, and depending on the severity, a few days or weeks to heal. Treatment aims to help your child feel more comfortable.

    • Give your child plenty of water to make sure they are well hydrated.
    • Cool you child’s skin with cold compresses or a cool bath.
    • If required, give your child simple pain relief medicine, such as paracetamol or ibuprofen, to keep them comfortable.
    • Prevent further UV damage by keeping your child indoors.
    • Signs of severe sunburn include blisters, swollen skin and severe pain. If your child has any of these signs, take them to see a doctor.
    • Sometimes children can get heatstroke, along with sunburn. If your child’s sunburn is accompanied by fever, headaches or  nausea and vomiting, take them to see your doctor.

    Key points to remember

    • Exposure to ultraviolet (UV) radiation from the sun can cause sunburn, skin damage and eye damage.
    • Slip on a shirt, slop on some sunscreen, slap on a hat, seek shade and slide on sunglasses.
    • Be a role model for your children and participate in sun protection behaviours so they are more willing to do the same.

    More information


    Developed by Community Information in association with the Cancer Council Victoria’s SunSmart program. First published 2017.

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This information is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your doctor or healthcare professionals. The authors of these consumer health information handouts have made a considerable effort to ensure the information is accurate, up to date and easy to understand. The Royal Children's Hospital, Melbourne accepts no responsibility for any inaccuracies, information perceived as misleading, or the success of any treatment regimen detailed in these handouts. Information contained in the handouts is updated regularly and therefore you should always check you are referring to the most recent version of the handout. The onus is on you, the user, to ensure that you have downloaded the most up-to-date version of a consumer health information handout.