How To Keep Your Baby Cool & Comfortable This Summer
With temperatures reaching records highs and dangerous heat waves lingering throughout North America, parents want to know how to keep little ones cool.
While the 117-degree, record-smashing heatwave stifling the Northwest has been making headlines, it’s not just our poor, sweltering friends in Spokane and Portland trying to beat the heat this summer. The Northeast to the Midwest also saw record temperatures this June — and the season’s just getting started — and many parents are particularly worried about how to keep a baby cool in hot weather. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) states that a heat index above 90°F presents significant health risk, and that babies are at particular risk. Because while little ones are really good at being cute and stealing our hearts, they’re actually really bad at regulating their own body temperatures, and letting us know when they’re getting overheated.
Fortunately, we’ve found some good tips on how to keep your baby cool in these God-awful heat waves.
It’s a good idea to offer cool water throughout the day under normal circumstances, but especially in extreme heat. Generally speaking, recommended water intake for children is about .5 to 1 cup per day from 6 to 12 months; 1 to 4 cups a day for 12 to 24 months; and 1 to 5 cups a day for 2 to 5 years. Now, about that asterisk: the AAP does not recommend water for children younger than 6 months. If your child is under 6 months, you may find they want to nurse more throughout the day, which is encouraged to keep your little one good and hydrated.
You could also try popsicles if you notice your baby isn’t taking in as many fluids as you’d like. Seattle Children’s recommends babies over 1 year having popsicles if you need to up their fluid intake, but some dietitians make popsicle recipes for babies between 6 months and a year, too. You can also try making breast milk popsicles, and if you are nursing, be sure to keep your own fluid intake up to help baby take in the milk they need.
Clothes? Where We’re Going, We Don’t Need Clothes...
There’s an old adage that says you should put your baby in one layer more than you’re wearing in order for them to feel comfortable. While that’s good advice for cold weather, once you get above 75° degrees Fahrenheit, the AAP says you can get down to one layer.
You do, however, want to be mindful of ensuring your baby is protected from sunburn (that perfectly soft skin is also extra sensitive). While babies can wear sunscreen, you want to keep it minimal before 6 months. Keep babies in the shade as much as possible and, if they are going to be in the sun, the AAP recommends dressing them in lightweight cotton clothing with long sleeves and long pants and a sun hat with a wide brim. Because sun protection can run counter to keeping cool for an infant, they also recommend staying out of direct sunlight between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m., when the sun’s rays are the strongest.
But, if you’re indoors (ie: protected from the sun) and it’s still very hot, you can go ahead and strip your baby down to a diaper to help cool them down. This is also true at bedtime.
Just as the various beasts of the savannah enjoy frolicking at the watering hole, your tiny beasty will also enjoy splashing in a tub of cool water or luxuriating with cool cloths. Remember to keep it cool, though, and not cold. (You don’t want their temperature to drop too quickly... also who likes being doused in cold water?!) And, obviously, never leave your child unsupervised in the bath.
Blinds Closed, Windows Open
The ideal room temperature for babies is between 68 and 72 degrees Fahrenheit, which can be hard to reach in the summer, especially if you don’t have an air conditioner. One way to keep some of the heat out but allow air to flow is to close curtains or lower blinds but leave windows open. Blackout curtains are also helpful to keep temperatures down on those sweltering days (and may even buy you some more sleep, which, frankly, is priceless).
Avoid Enclosed Spaces
Many of us are familiar with heartbreaking stories of babies unwittingly left in hot cars, which is an incident that has claimed the lives of 888 children since 1998 according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. But in addition to not leaving children in a car, even for a minute, Dr. Svante Norgren, a pediatrician at the Astrid Lindgren children's hospital in Stockholm conducted an experiment that showed covering a stroller (with the good intention of shielding the baby from sun) increased the temperature inside a stroller to dangerous levels. As much as you might think that shade or tent over their play area will help keep them cool, it could be making it far too warm for them.
Fun With Fans
If you don’t have an air conditioner in your baby’s room, feel free to make use of a ceiling fan or a box fan, noted pediatrician Dr. Debra Langlois of C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital. Just don’t point them directly at the baby and make sure the fan is not within reach of little hands (that goes for the plugs, too).
Never put a fan in your baby’s crib or bassinet.
Know The Signs Of Heat Illness
Because babies can’t tell us how they feel, it’s up to us to know the signs of heat-related illness in children that we can observe. Some noticeable symptoms of heat exhaustion include increased thirst, vomiting, increased irritability, increased sweating, cool, clammy skin, and/or a raised body temperature, but under 104°F. If you observe these symptoms, the AAP recommends bringing your child to a cooler place if you can, removing any excess clothing, putting cool water or a cool cloth on your child’s skin, encouraging them to drink (cool water if they’re older than 6 months or breast milk or formula if they’re younger) and calling your pediatrician for additional advice.
Left untreated, heat exhaustion can turn into heatstroke, a life-threatening medical emergency marked by confusion, nausea, rapid breathing and heartbeat, loss of consciousness, a lack of sweating, flushed, hot, dry skin, a temperature of 104°F or higher, and sometimes seizures. If you suspect heatstroke, call emergency services. While you’re waiting for help, try to cool them as suggested above, but do not offer fluids unless they’re awake, alert, and acting normally.
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