The truth is, as temperatures across the globe continue to rise, heatwaves are going to become more regular. As parents and caregivers, our primary concern will always be looking after the tiny humans we’re responsible for. While the heat makes some things easier – you don’t need to put a million layers on them before you leave the house for a start – looking after kids in a heatwave and as the mercury climbs can be tricky.
It’s important to keep a close eye on babies and young children during hot weather. Kids can’t control their body temperature as efficiently as adults during hot weather because they don’t sweat as much. They can quickly become dehydrated and may not show the early signs and symptoms of the effects of heat in the same way as adults.
Heat stress and exhaustion
So what should we be looking out for? Babies may be a bit more irritable than usual when they’re suffering from heat-related illness. They may seem floppy, have drier skin, refuse to drink or have fewer wet nappies than usual. Other symptoms of heat exhaustion or heat stress vary but can include one or more of the following:
- hot, red and dry skin
Heatstroke is a serious condition that happens when the body is exposed to really high temperatures and the mechanism that controls body temperature stops working. If heat stress or exhaustion is left untreated, heatstroke can happen, but it can also happen suddenly and without warning.
Symptoms of heatstroke may include:
- high body temperature – a temperature of or above 40°C (104°F) is a major sign of heatstroke
- red, hot skin and sweating that then suddenly stops
- fast heartbeat
- fast shallow breathing
- confusion/lack of co-ordination
- loss of consciousness
Looking after kids in a heatwave
There are a couple of things it’s important to think about when it comes to looking after kids in a heatwave. First of all when temps hit over 30°C, kids shouldn’t get too physical and if they’re playing outside, the shade is where they should be hanging out.
Loose, light coloured clothing is the best uniform for keeping cool and sunhats with wide brims and a flap that covers the neck help avoid sunburn. Apologies in advance for the battle you will have to endure to get your kids to keep the hat on. Getting a hat for their favourite teddy or toy can sometimes convince them it’s a club they want to join but don’t hold us to that. Bon chance.
We ALL need to drink more when it’s hot and remember to protect ourselves from the sun’s harmful rays. Encourage your kids to drink more (homemade lollies work well) and smother them head to toe in sunscreen with at least factor 15 and UVA protection. Make sure you’re giving yourself the same care you give to them and use the prompts you give them to rehydrate and sunscreen up to do the same for yourself.
Keeping babies safe
While we’re all a bit more fussy when the temperatures rise, babies need more TLC than most during hot weather. During heatwaves, if you’re breastfeeding, your little one might need extra breastfeeds. They won’t need extra water as your breast milk will give them everything they need but make sure you’re getting plenty of fluid.
Think about ways to make sure air can circulate around your baby. Prams can be hot and airless so don’t leave them to sleep in there. Use cotton sheets to absorb perspiration and prevent prickly heat and, if it’s really hot (over 27°C), put your baby to bed in just a nappy. This guide from Babysoundasleep is really helpful on how to dress your baby depending on the temperature.
Cars are heat traps unless you’ve got really good air conditioning. If you’ve got to travel, try doing it in the coolest part of the day and use sunshades on car windows. We know you know this, but it’d be remiss not to say it – don’t leave your kids in a hot car, even for a minute or two. Those things get baking in the hot sun.
Nap time need-to knows
Keep rooms where your kids might sleep cool even if you’re not thinking about bedtime. Shades or light-coloured curtains help to keep temperatures lower and though it might seem counter-intuitive, keep windows closed during the daytime. When temperatures are higher outside than they are inside, opening windows just lets the warmer air in, so keeping them closed can actually keep rooms cooler.
Fans are a really handy tool for keeping children and rooms cool too. Don’t use them if the temperature is above 35°C. While this probably isn’t a worry in the UK most of the time, it’s good to know if you’re abroad. When it’s over 35°C, using fans can just move warm air around and exacerbate the warmth problem. Don’t aim the fan directly at the body but again, think about using it as a tool to circulate the air around them.
What are your top tips for keeping cool in the warmer weather? Head over to Instagram to let us know!