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Does baby need sunscreen in the winter, too?
Q: I like to take my 1-year-old daughter out for a walk every day, including in the winter, as long as the weather isn’t too severe. Do I need to put sunscreen on her during the winter? Some days are cloudy and others are sunny.
Laura Denver
A: Laura, it’s great that you take your daughter outdoors every day. Fresh air, exercise and the opportunity to explore nature are good for children’s health and development. It’s also good to think about protecting your baby from skin cancer. One or two bad sunburns in childhood can significantly increase the risk of skin cancer. This is especially true if you have fair skin and a family history of skin cancer.

Although the sun’s ultraviolet rays may be weaker in the winter, they get through the clouds and are reflected off snow and ice. The sun’s rays are even stronger at the high altitude where you live. Since children can get a significant amount of sun exposure in the winter, it is recommended that you put sunscreen on your baby every day, including in the winter.

Follow the same guidelines for sun protection as you do during the summer. The only difference is that in the winter, only your baby’s face is exposed to the sun, so you don’t have to worry about putting sunscreen on her arms and legs. Choose a sunscreen with at least SPF 15 and both UVA and UVB protection. Apply the sunscreen approximately 30 minutes before going outdoors. Since the sun’s rays are strongest between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m., you might consider taking your walks earlier or later in the day. If you take your baby out in the stroller, consider using the sunshade for more protection. And do continue to enjoy the outdoors!

Karen Sokal-Gutierrez M.D., M.P.H. Pediatrician