Written by Caroline Meyer
During the warmer months it is important to monitor little ones, especially on the hotter days. They are more at risk for dehydration, heat stroke other heat related issues that what adults are.
Babies under 6 months old should always be out of direct sunlight. They contain less melanin in their skin and can burn easily. Keep them shaded at all times. Sunscreen is not recommended for babies. Babies older than six months can use sunscreens of SPF 30 and higher, just make sure to test for skin reactions before rubbing it all over baby’s skin. Ensure the sunscreen is applied regularly especially if baby is going into water. A hat which protects their face, head and neck from the sun is a minimum. It is also preferable to keep their body, arms and legs protected from the sun as well. Babies cannot adjust their temperature the way adults do. They also sweat less while heating up more when they are active. This makes them more at risk for overheating and dehydration.
Keeping baby hydrated
It is important that you offer fluids often when the weather is warm. Breastfeed or bottle feed more often in hot weather. Babies over 6 months old can be given a little cool, boiled water in between feeds but younger babies should be offered breast milk or formula only. If breastfeeding, keep your own fluid content up so that you can hydrate yourself as well as your baby. Use a towel or sheet between you and baby if the heat makes skin to skin contact uncomfortable or try the lying down to feed method which doesn’t require as much contact. Your baby should still present at least 6 or more wet nappies in a day if they are getting enough fluid.
Keeping cool inside
If your home is not airconditioned, you can close the curtains in the coolest room in the house and allow a small fan to circulate the air to keep the room cool for baby to sleep better. Don’t blow the air directly on to the baby. Keep the fan away from where baby can reach as well as ensuring plugs are unable to be tampered with. You can wipe baby down with a damp cloth, bath often in tepid water to cool them down. Use lukewarm water and not cold water. If you have air-conditioning, keep the temperature at between 24 to 26 degrees Celsius. Don’t make the room too cold.
Keeping cool outside
Setup a paddling pool in a shaded area of the garden. Supervise at all times. Try and keep outdoor activities to before 11am or after 4pm in to avoid the worst of the heat. If you must go out, cover up and keep them shaded. Make sure to keep track of hydration. Never ever leave babies in a car. This is a rule for always, not only in hot months. Don’t cover babies with blankets or towels. Don’t restrict air movement over their prams or strollers. Keep sunshades up on the car while you are shopping. Try park in shaded areas so the car is cooler when you return. Longer journeys should be undertaken in cooler hours.
Heat related illnesses and what to do
Prickly heat: This is a rash which presents as small, red, raised spots that cause a tingling or prickling sensation. This is common in areas that stay moist such as the nappy area and under baby’s chin. Use castor oil or zinc-based creams to help with these types of rashes. Change nappies and clothes as often as needed and give extra lukewarm baths during the day.
Dehydration: This can occur quickly if baby is not being hydrated enough. Makes sure you feed breastmilk or formula more often when it is warm to avoid dehydration. Babies can dry out in air-conditioning and may become sleepy and feed less when travelling in the car. Make sure they are woken and fed regularly.
Heat Exhaustion: Symptoms can include clammy, pale skin, irritability, less urination or dark urine, excessive sleepiness, intense thirst or refusing to drink, dry mouth and skin, a receded fontanelle. Move baby to a cool area and remove all clothes except the nappy. Give extra milk unless they are not able to swallow or are unconscious. Wipe with a damp cloth or drape with a damp sheet. Contact your doctor for additional assistance.
Heat stroke: Symptoms include dry, hot, red coloured skin, rapid breathing, confusion, vomiting, unconsciousness, unresponsiveness (coma). Call an emergency service immediately. Move baby to a cool area and remove clothing except nappy. If baby is able to drink, offer fluids. Sponge with tepid water or cover with cool, damp cloths. If baby is unconscious or unresponsive, cradle them with their head titled downward. For babies older than 12 months, lay them on their side in the standard recovery position, ensuring the airway is clear. If they are not breathing, perform CPR.
Excessive heat can cause death. It is important to ensure your baby is hydrated and cool in the hot months and to get medical attention as quickly as possible should you suspect heat stroke, heat exhaustion or severe dehydration.