Summer means fun in the sun, beach time, playing outdoors, and lots of other fun activities. It can also come with soaring temperatures. That’s uncomfortable for adults, but it can be downright dangerous for babies. How do you keep your little one cool and comfy in the heat?
Babies And Heat
When we get hot, we sweat – the sweat evaporates and helps us cool off. And if we’re really overheating, we know it and can seek out the nearest air conditioning to cool off. But babies don’t have those mechanisms. They can’t regulate their body temperatures as effectively as we do and they won’t be able to tell you that they’re overheating.
That means babies are prone to heatstroke, a serious condition that causes high fever and rapid breathing. It may be fatal if untreated. Overheating is also linked to Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) because it may cause babies to fall into a deeper sleep from which they can’t easily wake up.
How Do I Keep My Baby Cool?
Think about what you wear during the hot summer months – loose, light-colored clothing made of natural fibers. That’s exactly what your baby needs! Synthetic materials can trap heat and cause itching and rashes, so try to stick to cotton. Sun protection is also key – get your little one a sunhat for whenever you’re outside and stay indoors during the heat of the day (usually from around 10:00 AM to 4:00 PM). For children over 6 months, use sunscreen to protect them from burning. Try to keep children under 6 months out of the sun entirely, but talk to your doctor about the best kind of protection for unavoidable exposure.
Hydration is also key, but that doesn’t necessarily mean guzzling water like we do. Babies that are exclusively breast fed get plenty of water in the breast milk, though they may want to breastfeed for shorter times at more frequent intervals. Formula-fed babies can drink cool water, but you should boil it first to kill any bacteria. And if your little one has moved on to solid food, then water is a good choice for hydration. Beware sugary drinks, since they can actually cause dehydration.
Even when you’re indoors, it’s possible to overheat. Air conditioning is the best option so you can set a steady temperature. If that’s not an option, you can set up a fan in the baby’s room – just make sure it’s not pointed directly at your little one. Once the temperature pushes up into the high 80s and 90s, you may need to seek out an air-conditioned area such as a movie theater or a mall to wait out the heat. At night, you’ll want the thermostat set to the high 60s or low 70s to keep your little one (and you!) cool and comfortable. And a good rule of thumb is to put the baby in one more layer of clothing than you’re comfortable in. If you find the temperature comfortable with no clothes on at all, then your little one will be fine in just a t-shirt and a diaper.
And you should never leave your baby in a car, even for a few minutes. The temperature can rise very quickly and baby’s aren’t equipped to withstand the heat.
What Should I Do If My Baby Is Overheating?
What happens if your baby gets too hot? If you’re worried about the heat, check the back of your little one’s neck. If it’s hot or clammy, your baby may be too warm; take off a layer of clothing. Your baby may also be fussy or develop a red, bumpy heat rash. Dry mouth, dark or infrequent urination, fever, and listlessness may also signal dehydration or heat stroke.
Heat exhaustion is the first step on the way to heat stroke. The most common symptoms are unusual thirst, lethargy, and clammy skin. If you notice those symptoms, you should take your little one indoors to an air-conditioned area as soon as possible and provide plenty of breast milk, formula, or water (for formula-fed children or children that have weaned). You may also sponge off your baby’s skin with lukewarm or cool water. If the symptoms don’t improve quickly, it’s time to call your doctor.
If heat exhaustion progresses, it eventually becomes heat stroke. Symptoms include a high temperature, rapid pulse, lethargy, dry and hot skin, vomiting, lethargy, and unconsciousness, among others. Heat exhaustion requires immediate medical attention or it can be fatal, so call 911 right away. Then take off all of your child’s clothes and go to the nearest, coolest area. An air-conditioned room is best but even shade is better than being in the sun. Sponge off your little one’s skin with cool water as you wait for 911 and don’t let your baby move around if possible.
Stay Cool In The Heat!
Summer is a ton of fun with your baby, so make sure to keep your little one cool, comfortable, and safe! Overheating can be fatal or cause permanent damage – it’s a very serious risk and your child won’t be able to tell you their temperature. So keep your little one indoors during the hottest parts of the day, use sun protection outside, stay hydrated, and keep your baby cool at night. And have a great summer!