With a heatwave across much of North America, be sure to take care of the most vulnerable members of your family. In particular, take steps to protect newborn babies from the extreme heat.
Every day lately I see heat-related weather alerts. In my city today, there is a red air quality alert, which is a frequent occurrence on the hottest days of the year. With highs in some areas of Canada expected to be in the mid-30s Celsius and highs in the U.S. well over 100 Fahrenheit, a lot of us are focused on keeping our children cool. As average high temperatures trend upward, we can all expect to need more information on how to stay safe in extreme heat.
The heat alone, though, puts elders, pets, and especially babies at greater risk. Babies don’t sweat as much, but they gain heat faster than adults. A baby’s heating and cooling systems are as well developed as yours.
Your baby can’t cool off alone. Your baby depends on you to reduce the impact of summer heat.
Precautions for Babies
- Make sure your baby drinks a lot. Breastfeed on demand. Babies don’t need water as a supplement, just be sure to feed your baby frequently.
- Avoid the sun. If you do go out, stick to the shade, or make your own shade. Have your baby wear a hat with a wide brim. Don’t use sunscreen on a baby less than 6 months old.
- If you do go out, go in the early morning or in the evening when it is cooler.
- If the Air Quality Health Index (pollution) is high, stay inside. Babies and children are more vulnerable to pollution both in the short term and in the long term for their developing lungs.
- Choose a baby carrier that allows maximum air circulation, and check frequently that your baby is well. You might also want to put a prefold cloth diaper between the two of you to absorb any excess moisture.
- Keep your house cool by opening windows at night and closing them again when the sun comes up. Also, don’t cook hot meals during the day, since the oven warms up your house.
- Take a cool bath. If it isn’t too hot outside, play in a wading pool. Even splashing by drumming on a bucket of water will keep a baby a bit cooler (and distracted).
- Dress your baby in lightweight clothing. If you are staying home, try diaper only or going diaper-less (if you don’t mind cleaning up the occasional mess).
- Never never never leave your child in the car. The temperature inside a closed car is much higher than outside. We hear too many sad stories of deaths in locked cars.
Signs of Trouble
Dehydration signs are dry mouth, irritability, listlessness, no tears when crying, or concentrated urine in the diaper. If you see these symptoms, rehydrate. Breastfeed, or, for an older child, you could use fluid replacement (electrolyte) solution.
Heat stroke signs are flushed skin, dizziness, and little or no sweating. If you see these symptoms, start with a cool bath.
Heat rash looks like tiny pimples, often in the creases where your baby isn’t getting as much air circulation. If you see rash, dry the area and keep the air less humid when you can. Consider going diaperless. Heat rash is less serious that dehydration or heat stroke.
If you have any questions about your baby’s health, call your healthcare provider. In this heat, you won’t be the only one with questions.
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