Protect your baby from heat strokes

Watermelon, bathing suits, and sunblock! Summer is here, but so is the heat and the necessity to protect your baby from heat strokes.

For babies and toddlers, it’s a lot easier to overheat than for adults. Yet, it’s not that easy to know if they are suffering from the heat. Depending on how old your baby is, the humidity level, temperature, and activities that you are planning should all be considered when it’s really hot outside.

Learn what’s the difference between a heat stroke and heat exhaustion, and how to recognize symptoms and prevent heat-related incidents for your child.

Heat-related illness and injury in babies and toddlers

With a smaller surface to regulate the body temperature via sweating, babies and toddlers are more prone to heat-related illness. While small kids are excited to be outside and play, they aren’t good at noticing if they are dehydrated, getting a burn, or overheating.

If not spotted quickly, heat incidents can cause serious harm. However, they are easy to prevent. Here’s what you need to know to protect your baby from heat exhaustion and heat strokes.

What is heat exhaustion?

Heat exhaustion happens before a heat stroke. If your child is playing in the sun, be attentive to these heat exhaustion symptoms:

  • Sweating excessively
  • Turning pale
  • Feeling weak
  • Irritable mood 
  • Very thirsty
  • High body temperature (below 40°C)
  • Cool clammy skin
  • Dizziness or faintness
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramps

Treating heat exhaustion in babies and toddlers

As soon as your child shows heat exhaustion symptoms, get them out of the sun, whether it’s indoors or in the shade. If you are going inside, be careful of air conditioners. If it’s too cold inside it could create a temperature chock.

Help them cool off by removing some clothes and wetting their skin either with a water spray or a damp cloth. Rehydrate your child with water, juice, or a sports drink with electrolytes.

If your child’s condition doesn’t improve after 30 minutes, consult a medical professional. If your child feels better, make sure they stay well hydrated and out of the sun for the rest of the day.

What is a heat stroke?

When heat exhaustion goes untreated, it can escalate to a heat stroke. Because your child’s body isn’t able to handle the excessive heating, their heat regulation system stops working, leading to their body temperature rising dangerously.

When a baby or toddler has a heat stroke it is an emergency. Go to the closest health or emergency services.

Symptoms of a heat stroke include:

  • Hot skin that is dry to the touch
  • Reddish flushed skin
  • High body temperature (40°C or higher)
  • Confusion, agitation, or hallucinations
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Diarrhea
  • Rapid breathing and elevated heartbeat
  • Very weak or feeling dizzy
  • Fainting
  • Seizures
  • Strong headache
  • Loss of consciousness

What to do if your child has a heat stroke

If your child is suffering from a heat stroke, you will notice right away that their skin is very hot but dry to the touch. This is due to their body’s inability to control its temperature and use sweating to cool itself.

React quickly. Move your child out of the sun and to a cool area. Get their skin or clothes wet. Fan them or use an air conditioner (not directly on them nor excessively cold). Call the emergencies or quickly go to the nearest health services.

Do not give them food or drinks. During a heat stroke, your child’s body is in shut-down mode and won’t be able to process food or fluids. Keep their lips and mouth moist with a little bit of water if possible.

Do not use medication. Fever medication can’t help with heat strokes and could cause more harm.

Do not give your child an ice bath. Although it is a technique that a doctor can use to cool your child, it necessitates closely monitoring their vitals. Overcooling can lower the body’s temperature to dangerous levels.

Tips to protect your baby from heat strokes and heat exhaustion

The best way to protect your child from a heat illness or injury is to prevent them from happening at all.

The easiest three ways to prevent overheating are:

1. Shade: 

When playing outside during summer, it’s best to stay in the shade. Under trees, a tent, or sun shades, you can even use a large piece of cloth to create a shaded area.

2. Hydration:

Your child might be too busy playing to notice he’s thirsty. For a baby, increase their milk and fluid intake during hot days. For a toddler, give them water, iced tea, or other low-sugar drinks throughout the day.

3. Light clothing:

Adapt their outfit to the weather and activity. Select light colors and natural fabrics like linen or cotton. Choose unrestrictive loose cuts, making it easier for their body to cool down. Keep a water spray to cool down their skin.

Finally, a few don’ts:

  • Don’t let your child play in the heat for a prolonged period
  • Don’t leave your child in a parked car
  • Don’t get your child in a heated car. If it’s been parked in the sun a while, cool it down before installing your child. Use sunshades on the car windows. 
  • Don’t use a towel or blanket to cover your child in their car seat or stroller. The fabric can reduce airflow and cause them to overheat.
  • Don’t stay in a space without air. Create airflow in your house using windows, fans, or an air conditioner. If you don’t have an air conditioner at home, go to the library or public space like a mall or a coffee shop.

I hope you have found this article informative to protect your baby from heat strokes. Want more? Check out What’s a normal temperature for a baby?

Until next time, Tania xx

*This article is provided for informational purposes only, and does not intend to substitute professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment.