Keeping Our Babies and Young Children Safe During the Summer Heat
By Dr. Giselle Chamberlain BSc, DC CACCP
It is that time of year that we finally get some nice hot weather. While many of us enjoy the heat, it is important to take the time to ensure that we keep the little ones in our lives safe from the effects of the heat and high temperatures. Children age 0-4 years are especially susceptible to these effects, and babies rely on us adults to control their environment and keep them from getting dehydrated or overheated.
Keep an eye on the little ones for any symptoms of overheating and dehydration. These can include a flushed face, irritability, they may seem floppy, have dryer skin, refuse to drink, dry diapers and if they are really dehydrated you will notice that the soft spot on the head (called the Fontanelle) will appear sunken in.
Babies who are younger than 6 months and exclusively breastfed should not be given any water. They should continue to feed but you will notice that they will probably want shorter, more frequent feeds. This will be more than enough to keep them hydrated. They should consume about 50% more milk throughout the day. Moms should ensure they are getting enough fluids as well which will help to maintain their milk production. If you are formula feeding, they can have some cool boiled water in between their milk feeds.
For older children, make sure they get small amounts of liquid more frequently. Fluids on really hot days should be consumed every 15-20 minutes. Do not wait for your child to say that they are thirsty. Water is best but there are other creative ways to give them their fluids. Cut up frozen fruit such as watermelon, oranges and pineapple are great. You can also make popsicles, fruit shakes and even flavoured ice cubes. Stay away from sodas and sports drinks as they are high in sugar and sodium. If you are on the go, always make sure you have water with you.
Keeping babies and young children cool, and controlling the environment, are very important. Dress the little ones in light, loose clothing. Cotton is best over synthetics as they can trap in the heat. A wide brim hat is also essential when outside. It is best to stay indoors during the times of day when the heat is at it’s worst. If you need to go out, make sure babies are in the shade at all times and have their arms and legs covered with loose, cool clothing. Their skin is very thin and they have very little melanin so they burn very easily. Take out any extra padding from the car seat as it can trap in the heat. Furthermore, make sure they do not have any sunlight on them as you drive because that is enough to overheat them and can cause sunburn. And of course, never leave a baby or child in a parked car. If you are carrying your child, make sure the carrier is made with a light nylon rather than denim as they can get very hot, very quickly when they are snuggled up to us. If their face looks flushed, take them out immediately.
At night and during nap times, ensure that there is good ventilation in their room. Having a fan is great for constant air flow, just ensure that the fan is not pointed directly at them. Remove any extra padding or bedding in their bed, crib or bassinet. Having a lukewarm bath before bed will also help to keep them cooler. Keeping the curtains drawn all day as this will also help keep the heat out.
Enjoy the summer and keep yourselves cool and hydrated!