Baby, It’s Hot Outside –
So Baby Needs Extra Protection
by Julie Bookman
It’s essential to protect babies from the hot and humid Atlanta summer. We turned to Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta for advice.
“The most important thing a parent can do to protect her child from hot weather is to be aware at all times of how the child is looking and feeling,” says Dr. Vivian Lennon, medical director of primary care for CHOA. How to tell if your baby could be overheated? Dr. Lennon says to look for these signs:
- Higher than usual body temperature
- Skin that feels hot, looks red or feels drier than usual
- Baby is sweating more than usual
- Baby has less wet diapers than usual
“If your baby isn’t going through as many diapers as usual, it means your baby is not getting enough fluids and is becoming dehydrated,” Dr. Lennon cautions. But that doesn’t mean that babies younger than 6 months of age should drink water. It might mean that breastfeeding moms may need to drink more water. Dr. Lennon’s advice: “If you’re breastfeeding, you’ll need to incorporate more water into your diet to pass it on to your baby, who will want to feed more often to hydrate. A formula-fed baby gets enough water if the bottle is prepared according the manufacturer’s directions. If you’re still concerned about how much water your baby is getting or you have any questions, consult your pediatrician.”
Her No. 1 advice for protecting your baby from heat and sun is two-fold: Keep baby in the shade as much as possible and keep her hydrated.
Is there other summer-related advice she finds herself giving to parents of babies?
“While it’s tempting to cool your baby off with a quick dip in the pool, I don’t recommend you take your baby into the water until they can hold their head up,” Dr. Lennon says. Once a baby can hold his head up, he can go into the pool while being held by an adult. “When your baby is ready for a flotation device, it’s imperative that an adult still be within arm’s reach of the child. And never leave any child unattended around water.”
Dr. Lennon provides more tips for protecting your baby from heavy heat and harmful sun rays:
Never, ever leave your baby in the car, even for a second.
“If you forgot something in the house and need to go get it, unbuckle your baby and take him with you,” Dr. Lennon says. “It takes only 10 minutes for a car to heat up by 10 degrees, which can be deadly in an already-hot car. Keep in mind your baby is in an insulated infant carrier or car seat, which only increases their body temperature.”
Don’t use sunscreen on babies 6 months and younger because their skin is much too sensitive.
Be sure to keep your baby out of direct sunlight as much as possible. But don’t stay indoors all the time; it’s good for babies to be outside – just keep them in the shade of trees, umbrellas, canopies, etc. If you know you’ll be in the sun with little to no shade, dress your baby in long sleeves and pants made of lightweight, breathable cotton.
Do use sunscreen on babies older than 6 months, and apply it every day, even if it’s an overcast day.
The brand doesn’t matter as much as using a product made specifically for children. Dr. Lennon adds, tha you should choose a product that’s at least an SPF of 15 or greater, and a waterproof formula. Apply sunscreen in the morning before your child gets dressed so you can be sure she’s covered everywhere. It should be reapplied every two hours and again after your child has been swimming or sweating a lot. When you reapply sunscreen, be sure to go under the hem lines or leg holes of a bathing suit and under any straps or collars.
Babies of any age should wear a hat when outdoors in summer.
Dr. Lennon recommends the hat has a 3-inch brim to protect the entire face. “While I would love to see all babies protect their eyes with UV sunglasses, the reality is that most will pull the sunglasses off within minutes,” says Dr. Lennon. That’s why it’s so important to protect the head, face and eyes with a hat.
Choose swimsuits and summer clothing with “SPF” built into them.
Dr. Lennon has seen several cases in which a child was burned through a swimsuit, so she recommends parents opt for clothing that contains the “SPF” component. But you should still apply sunscreen underneath that clothing, too.