Babies in hot weather
hot; heat; weather; summer; sun; sunburn; sunscreens; stroke; heatstroke; dehydration; prickly;
The hot weather can be a time of risk for babies because they are easily affected by the heat. It is important to keep them from getting overheated.
If you think your baby is suffering from the heat - ie. looks unwell, is refusing to drink, has a lot fewer wet nappies than usual or is vomiting - see a doctor or take the baby to a hospital immediately.
babies from the heat
Babies can get stressed by the heat and they need extra care in very hot weather. If you feel uncomfortably hot, your baby will need special care too.
- Breastfed babies may need extra breastfeeds during hot weather, but they usually do not need extra drinks of water.
- Bottle-fed babies may need extra formula or small drinks of cool boiled water if they seem thirsty.
- A 'tepid' bath can help keep your baby cool on a very hot day. The water needs to be warm enough to be comfortable; cool or cold water should not be used.
- Put your baby in the coolest part of the house with a fan going. Don't point the fan towards your baby - use it to keep the air in the room moving.
- Dress your baby with the same type of clothes that you need to feel comfortable -you might only have them in a singlet and nappy, or covered with a light sheet in bed.
- If it is very hot you can try putting a wet towel in front of the fan so that it cools the air. Keep a watch to make sure the baby does not get cold.
- If you have air-conditioning, make sure the room does not become too cold. A room temperature of about 24 to 26 degrees would probably be low enough.
- Dress babies lightly, but cover their arms and legs if they are outside.
- Avoid travelling in the hot weather if possible, or do it early in the day. Babies can overheat very quickly in cars. Never leave a baby alone in a car. Make sure your baby is in the shade in the car when you are travelling, as a baby's skin can burn in sunlight which has passed through car windows.
- Prickly heat is a rash of tiny little red pin-head spots, with tiny blisters.
- It is common in hot weather on parts of the skin that stay moist, such as in the nappy area or under the chin.
- Creams such as zinc and cod-liver oil creams, or zinc and castor oil creams will protect the skin. The same creams that are used for protecting the nappy area can be used under the chin and on other areas that are prone to prickly heat.
- Changing the baby's clothes more often, and giving tepid baths can also help.
in the sun
- A baby's skin is thin, and does not yet have much natural protection from the sun, so it burns and gets damaged much faster.
- Babies under 12 months do not need to be out in the sun. In Australia they will get all the sunlight they need for healthy development from reflected sunlight, eg being outside in the shade - unless all of their body is covered all of the time.
- Keep your baby in the shade as much as possible, but if you need to take your baby out:
- Shade your baby. A light sheet can be spread over a pram or stroller.
- Cover your baby's body, arms and legs with clothing, and put a wide brimmed hat on the baby.
- If parts of your baby's skin, such as hands and face, cannot be protected by shade or clothing, use a sunscreen cream made for babies or toddlers. Sunscreens appear to be safe for babies and should be used rather than risking sunburn. Use a 30+ broad spectrum sunscreen.
- If babies do not get enough to drink, or if they lose a lot of fluid through diarrhoea or vomiting, or through sweating when they are hot (the body's way of cooling down) they become dehydrated, which means that the body has lost too much fluid from body cells and blood.
- Babies show that they are dehydrated by looking unwell, being more floppy or irritable that usual, losing weight, having dry skin and a sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of their head is lower than usual) and by having a lot fewer wet nappies than usual.
- Babies who are dehydrated need lots of extra drinks (see the topic 'Gastroenteritis' for ideas about extra drinks). If they will not drink they may need hospital treatment (such as having a tube in to get extra fluids).
- If you think your baby may be dehydrated, it is important to have the baby checked by a doctor or health worker.
Heat stroke occurs when too much body water is lost and a baby's or child's temperature starts to rise. It can, if severe, cause damage to the body organs and it can be fatal.
Signs of heat stoke in babies, children and adults, include:
- rising body temperature
- smaller amounts of urine passed than usual, and dark coloured urine
- increased thirst (but later, as the baby gets weaker, he or she may drink less)
- dry mouth and eyes
- headache, muscle cramps
- being sleepy or 'floppy'
- confusion, shortness of breath and vomiting
- coma (not rousing when touched or called).
What to do for heat stroke
- If your baby or older child has any of these signs, he needs urgent treatment. While babies and children who are a little dehydrated may be able to recover with extra drinks, by the time a child has signs of heat stroke, he will need treatment in a hospital or other health centre.
What to do while you are getting help for your baby
- Call for urgent help, such as calling for an ambulance (000 in Australia), or take your baby to a hospital or health centre. The staff of an ambulance service will be able to start the treatment that is needed.
- Cover your baby with cool damp cloths.
- Keep trying to give your baby drinks unless your baby is unconscious and not able to swallow safely. The best drinks are those that are recommended for gastro, (see Extra drinks in the topic 'Gastroenteritis'. Do not add salt to any of the drinks.
Preventing heat stroke
- Heat stroke is preventable.
- Babies should be kept in a cool, shady place. If they need to be outside, cover their pram or pusher with a damp cloth (such as a damp cloth nappy).
- Babies and young children should not be left in a parked car on warm or hot days, even when the car is in the shade.
- Babies are not able to tell you that they are thirsty, so it important that you plan to give them extra drinks.
- If your baby starts to be floppy or more irritable, this could be a sign of heat stress and you need to give more drinks and take your baby to be checked by a doctor.
Cancer Council of South Australia, Sun Smart program:
The information on this site should not be used as an alternative to professional care. If you have a particular problem, see a doctor, or ring the Parent Helpline on 1300 364 100 (local call cost from anywhere in South Australia).
This topic may use 'he' and 'she' in turn - please change to suit your child's sex.