ASK THE EXPERTS: KEEPING KIDS COOL IN THE HEAT
When the temperature’s rising, it’s important to take extra care to ensure your little one is cool, safe and protected from the sun. But how?
As a nation that’s subject to very changeable weather conditions, we Brits can get pretty excited when things start to heat up. But if you’re mum to little ones, suddenly scorching conditions can trigger concerns about your children’s safety. How can I keep my baby cool at night? Is it acceptable to take the kids to the beach on a hot day? Has bubba drunk enough water? With young children being especially vulnerable to heat stroke, sunburn and heat rash, it’s wise to take extra care to keep them cool. “It’s harder for babies and children to thermoregulate in the heat, as they have a high body surface to body weight ratio because they’re small,” explains GP Dr Katie Sellens. “So, it’s even more important to keep them cool and prevent them from over exerting themselves when it’s hot.” But just how do you keep your infant healthy and happy when the mercury is rising? Follow our expert advice…
Time it wisely
Young children can be especially vulnerable to the heat, so seek out a shady spot and always keep them out of the sun during the hottest part of the day (from 11am to 3pm). “Babies younger than six months old should be kept out of direct sunlight,” adds Katie Benyohai of Better Births Antenatal Classes Ltd. “Their skin has very little melanin, which provides protection from the sun.” Use a parasol or SnoozeShade over your baby’s pram, but be mindful not to leave them in a pram or car seat for too long. “Using a muslin is not recommended as it traps in heat and significantly increases the temperature inside the pram,” warns Katie.
Keep them cool
Worried that the little ones will be too hot at night? Keep their rooms cool by closing the curtains and blinds, and shutting the windows (you can open them again for ventilation when it’s cooler). “You can circulate the air in the room using a fan, but this should never be pointed directly at your baby,” suggests Katie. “Ensure that your baby is not dressed in too many layers – consider putting them in just a nappy with a single low tog sleeping bag.”
Keep cool during the day, too. “Paddling pools and water games such as playing with water balloons or pistols can be fun ways to keep youngsters cool,” adds Dr Sellens.
“Some babies can develop a mild heat rash during hot, humid weather,” adds Katie. “To relieve heat rash, provide many opportunities for your baby to cool off…A cold flannel is a really quick and efficient way to cool your baby in hot weather.”
Quench their thirst
Kids won’t always let you know when they’re thirsty, so regularly offer them drinks. Signs of dehydration can include skin that’s warm to touch, dark urine, headaches, dry mouth, and rapid breathing. Frozen lollies and small drink dispensers that kids can use independently are fun ways to encourage older children to take on fluids.
What about babies? “Feed your baby responsively,” suggests Katie. “If you’re breastfeeding, your baby doesn’t need additional water until they’ve started eating solids – the water content in your breast milk increases in hot weather and is all that your baby needs. If you’re formula feeding, in addition to their usual formula feeds, you can give your baby a little cooled boiled water.’
Avoid the rays
For babies under six months, it’s wise to stay out of the sun as much as possible, but you can also use sunscreen. “Regularly apply sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 that protects against both UVA and UVB rays,” advises Katie. Older babies, toddlers and children should have sunscreen applied liberally every couple of hours, and consider a waterproof version for when they’re likely to get wet or sweaty. Dr Sellens also recommends investing in solar suits for older babies and children, and don’t forget to keep their head, face and back of their neck protected with a wide-brimmed, long-flapped sunhat.