Keeping your baby cool & safe during summertime
Increased weather temperatures can be harmful, particularly to babies. Overheating can cause conditions such as dehydration, sunburn, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. It is necessary that parents know how to keep their baby safe and prevent any serious heat related conditions.
As a baby's body is immature, it is difficult for them to regulate their own body temperature. This makes them overly sensitive to temperature alterations. Temperatures as low as 23°C may feel comfortable for us, but babies are overly sensitive to increased temperatures. This could be why they may be sweating even though it is not really hot.
Babies have smaller sweat glands and as they are less able to adapt their body temperature, they can rapidly lose body heat. Their skin is thinner, and they have less body fat than adults, adding to why they are not as compliant and more sensitive to adapt to temperature change. Babies tend to have cold hands and feet. As their circulatory system is continuing to develop, blood supply to their vital organs is prioritised. Therefore, their hands and feet are the last body parts having a decent blood stream and tend to feel cold. When babies are growing and becoming more mobile, their circulation will enhance.
Parents, mainly ‘new parents’ find it difficult knowing what their baby should be wearing, particularly now with the temperature arising. It may feel tricky to know how to dress a newborn baby, specially when they appear to get cold quickly. Babies also sweat less than adults, which makes it harder for their bodies to cool down. This increases their risk of overheating when exposed to high temperatures. It is important to not expose your baby to extreme temperature variations.
How to prevent your baby from overheating during warm weathers
- when indoors
It is important to monitor your babies room temperature and keeping their room cool. A room thermometer is a good way to control your baby’s temperature. A room temperature between 16°C to 20°C, is appropriate for a baby.
Dress your baby in light and cool cloths. Check if your baby is too hot, you can look and feel if they are sweating. If you think they are warm, remove layers of cloths or blankets. Remove baby’s outdoor cloths when you are indoors. If you are using a fan, make sure you do not place it directly at your baby. When using an air conditioner, make sure it is not too cool for your baby.
Make sure the water temperature is not too hot when bathing your baby. Keep your baby cool at night. Dress your baby appropriately at night-time, sleeping in a vest and nappy should be enough. Swaddle baby or use sheets that cannot be removed, specially when baby is moving around in their bed. Babies tend to be more fidgety when they are too warm and may be at risk of getting themselves entangled in blankets that can be unsafe. Make sure your baby is not sleeping in direct sunlight, next to a radiator or a fireplace.
How to prevent your baby from overheating during warm weathers
- when outdoors
Do not keep your baby outdoors when too hot. Dress your baby in light and cool cloths and remove layers of clothing if they feel warm. Baby’s skin is extremely sensitive, therefore children under the age of 6 months should be kept out of direct strong sunlight. Their skin is not mature compared to older children and adults and for this reason they are also very sensitive to chemicals, why sunscreen is not recommended for babies under 6 months old. Try to cover baby’s skin with suitable clothing and hat.
Make sure your baby spends time in the shade, mainly during 11am to 3pm, when the sun is at its strongest. If there is no natural shade, create shade using an umbrella or another similar sunshade. This will keep them cool and prevent potential sunburns. Never cover their pushchair, pram or car seat with a muslin, scarf or a blanket to keep them cool. This may create a shade, but can lead to overheating them even if using lightweight material.
Keep your baby hydrated, even more so during hot weathers. Make sure you are well hydrated too, if you are breastfeeding. Babies cannot tell you when they are thirsty, so it is important that you regularly offer them bottles or breastfeeds. If your baby has more than six wet nappies during the day, it is usually a good sign that they are having enough fluids throughout the day. Having an eye on your baby’s wet nappies every 24 hours during hot weathers, can be a helpful indicator on how well hydrated they are.
When going shopping, be aware of the risk of your baby overheating. When babies are being moved in and out of supermarkets, there is the probability of raised body temperature, especially when they have many layers on.
When driving, be aware that babies can easily become overheated in car seats. The temperature inside a parked car can increase rapidly and become extremely hotter than outside of the car, this within minutes of having all windows and doors closed. Never put a cover over a baby sitting in their car seat, as this will constrain the air circulating over baby and increase the risk of them overheating. Using sunshades on car windows are helpful to prevent them from overheating.
Babies and young children are extremely receptive to suffering from heat exhaustion and heatstroke, which is a medical emergency. Keeping your baby out of direct sunshine and heat, as well as keeping them cool and hydrated will prevent them from overheating and becoming severely ill.
Signs and symptoms of Heat exhaustion:
Displaying fast breathing or fast pulse
Having a temperature of 38C or above
Cramps in the arms, legs and stomach
Pale and clammy skin
Dry skin, particularly around their mouth and eyes. One indication of this may be that there is no or less tears when crying.
Irritability, dizziness and confusion. Babies tend to become more irritable than usual. They may display being uncomfortable when being held, breastfed or during any skin contact.
Feeling sick and Loss of appetite.
Being very thirsty. As babies may refuse to drink, specially when their symptoms are deteriorating, they may also show signs of intense thirst. An indication may be fewer wet nappies than normal.
The symptoms of heat exhaustion are often the same in adults and children, although children may also become floppy and sleepy.
What to do when suspecting heat exhaustion:
Take your baby to a cool place and remove extra clothing
Place them lying down with their feet slightly elevated
Give them plenty of fluid to drink
Cool their skin by spraying them, using a fan or using a cool damp cloth
You baby should become cooler and feel better within 30 minutes. Always seek medical advice if you suspect your baby is suffering from heat exhaustion.
What to do when suspecting heatstroke:
Heatstroke can become fatal, so it is important that you intervene fast and call 999 for an ambulance if your baby:
Is feeling unwell after 30 minutes of having rested in a cool place and been given lots of fluids to drink
If their breathing has deteriorated, they are breathing rapidly or having shortness of breath
If they are not sweating although being very hot
If they have a temperature of 40°C or above
If they are feeling confused
If they are having a seizure
If they lose consciousness or becomes unresponsive
Place your baby in the recovery position if they have become unconscious, but breathing normally. Recovery position for babies less than a year old is when you cradle your baby in your arms, supporting their head with your hand and holding their head tilted downwards. This allows drainage and prevents their airway from being obstructed by their tongue or vomit. If your baby stops breathing, you need to commence CPR.
Written by Fi Ramos, Public Health Nurse & First Aid Instructor at Act2care.
Information on this site is evidence based and provided to create awareness and advice only. If you are worried about a condition, seek medical advice.
Theoretical first aid tips are beneficial, however practical demonstrations and exercises are necessary for gaining high standard of first aid knowledge and skills.
If you are interested in gaining first aid skills, contact Fi to find our more about our paediatric first aid classes: firstname.lastname@example.org