NCT's Top tips to help pregnant women, babies & toddlers stay cool this summer

Released on: 17 July 2013

With the hot weather forecast, the situation for babies, toddlers and mums-to-be could quickly turn uncomfortable. So NCT has put together some top tips to help pregnant women and little ones stay cool this summer.

Avoiding Dehydration

  • The main symptoms of dehydration are feeling thirsty. In more severe cases you may also get headaches, dizziness and feel tired or lethargic, which are the early warning signs of heat exhaustion. To avoid dehydration pregnant women should drink regularly and have plenty of cold drinks (water or fruit juice are best).
  • Babies, because they have a low body weight, are more sensitive to even small amounts of fluid loss. Like adults, babies and young children need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • Bbies show that they are dehydrated by being more floppy or irritable than usual, looking unwell, 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, with darker urine.
  • Breastfed babies don’t need extra water as long as they can breastfeed as often as they need to. Even in much hotter countries studies have shown that babies help themselves to more frequent, shorter feeds so that they get more thirst-quenching milk. They may often have a short feed from each breast if they are thirsty.
  • Babies fed on formula need to be offered cooled, boiled water in a small cup or bottle. Formula fed babies may behave as though they are hungry but if they then reject the feed it may be that they are actually thirsty. Offer water little and often but continue to offer formula as normal.
  • Be creative to keep your child hydrated. If over six months old, you could try giving them very diluted fruit juice, or homemade fruit juice lollies when it’s very hot. Fruit juice isn’t necessary for babies; their teeth are more vulnerable to acid attack and water is the only drink they need other than milk.

Protecting your baby from 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. Young children like to be outdoors but in the summer the sun is very strong in the middle of the day so you may want to be indoors between about 11.00am and 3.00pm.

Keeping your baby in the shade as much as possible helps to keep them cooler, as well as safer from the sun, 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 them.
  • Use a sunscreen cream made for babies or toddlers which blocks both UVA and UVB. Sunscreens appear to be safe for babies and should be used rather than risking sunburn. Use a broad spectrum sunscreen with an SPF of 30+.
  • Don’t forget to apply sunscreen regularly, particularly if your child is in and out of the sea or a paddling pool.

Tips for keeping cool

  • Have cool baths or showers, and splash yourself with cool water.  
  • Babies and children like to play with water so, shaded from the sun, try giving them an outdoor bath in a washing up bowl if they are small, or let them sit up and play with the water in a bowl. For older ones a paddling pool is fun and helps them keep cool.
  • Wear loose, cool clothing and a hat if you go outdoors. Babies might be best in a bigger brother or sister’s thin shirt.  Anything that lets air circulate next to their skin will help.
  • Close blinds or curtains in the day where the sun comes in and leave windows open if it is safe to do so.
  • Opening upstairs windows and leaving doors open may help to get a breeze flowing up through the house. But with small children in the house avoid doing this if they can climb and reach the windows.
  • Cars are heat traps and it is hard to stay cool in a car unless it is air conditioned. If you can travel in the early morning or evening it will be more comfortable.

Keeping cool at night

  • It helps to keep your child's bedroom cool during the day by closing blinds or curtains. You can also use a fan to circulate the air in the room.
  • Open your windows and curtains at night if it is safe.
  • Bowls of water in the house also help to cool the air through evaporation.
  • Babies won’t need much in the way of bedclothes or covers. You could dress your baby in just a nappy with a vest or a sheet that won't work loose and cover their face or get entangled during the night.

For more details on Heat exhaustion and heat stroke see the NHS Choices website: http://www.nhs.uk/Conditions/Heat-exhaustion-and-heatstroke/Pages/Sympt…