It's summertime, and you've got a million errands to run. Meanwhile, your baby is in the backseat, wedged tightly into a titanium space pod that will probably outlast humanity. Unfortunately, that space pod doesn't seem particularly breathable. It makes sense to wonder, can my baby overheat while driving around? In fact, as Baby Gooroo pointed out, kids overheating in car seats is actually a year-round risk.
Romper reached out to community safety and wellness expert Sarah Brown of Mattress Firm, who writes in an email interview that "once the temperature hits 80 degrees Fahrenheit or higher, babies are at a high risk of overheating, anywhere, at any time." If you don't have air conditioning in your car, Brown absolutely recommends leaving the baby at home. However, sometimes life gives parents little choice, and in that case, Brown recommends wrapping ice packs in thick towels and arranging them around your baby. She advises:
"Never let the ice pack touch your baby directly. Make sure to dress them in very light clothing, put up window shades, and leave the windows cracked a bit for air circulation. You may also consider buying a clip-on fan that runs off the adapter."
A quick note on clip-on fans — also super useful for summer stroller walks, but do not point them straight at your baby's adorable face. According to Brown, babies hold their breath in response to wind blown directly on their faces, so take care.
Romper also spoke with Lisa Strickland, a child passenger safety technician, who suggests placing a blanket or towel over the unoccupied car seat to keep it cool when you're not using it.
What about car seat mirrors? Can they provide parents with peace of mind on a hot summer's day?
Though Strickland writes in our interview that car seat mirrors are considered "parental choice," techs don't recommend them. "Anything in your car can become a projectile in an accident," she writes. "So a seemingly harmless mirror that weighs 1 pound, in a 30 mile-per-hour crash, becomes 30 pounds of force. Should it dislodge, it can hit the child in the face or head, causing damage."
Furthermore, as Strickland reminds us, that titanium space pod won't do your child any good if it's not installed correctly. Among other mistakes, she commonly sees parents strapping kids too loosely — you shouldn't be able to pinch any slack around the shoulders. To check that you've installed your car seat properly and are using it correctly, talk to a certified technician. Find one in your area at cert.safekids.org.
Heat is a significant risk to children, and especially babies, who don't regulate their temperature as well as we do. Be careful this summer, and never, ever leave your baby in a car unattended. The inside of your car heats up faster than you think. According to the non-profit Kids and Cars, an average of 37 children die each year from vehicular heat stroke. Many of these deaths are inadvertent and entirely preventable.
I grew up in Arizona, where my family's cassette tapes occasionally melted in our Volvo's tape deck (yes, cassettes — this was the early 90s). Today, I live in Honolulu, where lifeguards promote the motto, "If in doubt, don't go out!" The motto refers to ocean safety, but I always think of it on super hot days, especially if I'm considering a stroller walk, hike, or long errand.
When possible, don't drive without air conditioning, and if you can fry an egg on the sidewalk, it might be best to keep the baby inside until evening.