How to keep babies cool in a heatwave

siblings in the pool

Our youngest and smallest are the most vulnerable when it comes to extreme weather and Australian summers can get very hot. 

So how do we protect our littlest ones from extreme heat? 

“Hydration, hydration, hydration,” says Sarah Hunstead, a former paediatric nurse, mum of two and founder of CPR Kids.

“Babies and little children can’t tell us that they are thirsty, so we have to look out for the signs and symptoms.”

Sarah explained that when heat exhaustion is peak, babies eyes can look sunken. And often in these worst-case scenarios, their fontanelle will look sunken too.

Other signs include: crying without tears, that they are sleepier than usual and that their lips and tongue aren’t moist. 

Listen to Sarah Hunstead on Feed Play Love

What about older babies and toddlers?

While toddlers have a better chance of telling us that they are thirsty, when super dehydrated they may also be prone to crying more.

“And just like babies who are suffering from the heat, the crying may not always come with tears. They may also be more irritable than usual, lethargic and floppy and not peeing as much,” says Sarah.

“Older babies may also have less wet nappies than usual.” 


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How do we avoid these worst-case scenarios? 

Nobody wants to see their child in pain or uncomfortable. So when it comes to avoiding heat exhaustion, Sarah says we must make the assumptions that children feel heat differently to us adults.

“Young babies can’t thermoregulate, which mean they can’t control temperature like we can. But we can help control their environment,” says Sarah.

“We can help them by putting them just in a nappy inside, or in some loose comfortable clothing.”

Sarah also reminds us to consider our home environment, particularly in relation to the way you are cooling things with a fan and air conditioning.

“Definitely shut the curtains and have the fans going, but don’t have the fan blasting arctic wind onto your child, just have it circulating around the room,” says Sarah. “Also, watch the air conditioner – don’t set it to 10 degrees and walk away! Keep it on the low to mid-20s.”

If you must leave the house when it’s scorching hot … 

“Sometimes you can’t just stay home, especially if you have young kids and have school pick up to do. If you take baby out, make sure you don’t cover the pram too tightly,” says Sarah.

“Those prams can reach up to 15 degrees higher inside the pram if you tie a muslin wrap or towel around the front. Make sure there is plenty of air circulation.”

If you are breastfeeding, be sure to offer the baby more feeds than normal and don’t forget to keep yourself completely hydrated too!

When should you call 000? 

Don’t hesitate to call 000 if your baby or toddler is floppy, their skin has gone pale or more clammy. Get emergency help immediately,” says Sarah.

“Nobody will ever get cross with a parent for wanting to double check their child’s safety in extreme weather. Worried parents are the best gauge because they know their children best.”

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