We can all feel restless and uncomfortable when it gets hot. But while you can easily open a window, take off a layer, or turn on a fan to keep cool, your children will need a little extra help when the temperature kicks up.
In serious cases, infants can become very unwell because they’re too hot so it’s important you keep a close eye on them during the summer months.
The main problems you need to be aware of in hot weather are:
- Heat exhaustion/ Heat stroke
Dehydration is caused when the body loses more fluid than it takes in. Babies and young children are particularly susceptible to dehydration because their low body weight can be affected by smaller changes in fluid.
Warning signs to look out for in infants affected by dehydration include:
- a sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on their head
- few or no tears when crying
- fewer wet nappies
The key to avoiding dehydration in children, and adults, is to drink plenty of fluids.
According to NHS Choices, babies that are being breastfed should not need additional water - though you may want to breastfeed more often.
This can be tricky, however, as the last thing anyone wants when it’s hot and sticky is to sit close to another person and your baby may well feel the same way about being cradled and breastfed! One great tip is to place a cool pillowcase or other lightweight fabric between you and your baby to avoid that clammy feeling.
For older children water can be a boring drink, so try things like fruit cordials, ice cubes, diluted fruit juices and healthy homemade ice lollies to keep them hydrated throughout the day.
It’s important to remember that, if you think your little one is suffering from dehydration, simply drinking lots and lots of water is not a suitable remedy for infants and young children.
This is because, when they’re dehydrated, your child is also depleted of vital minerals. Drinking a large amount of water will dilute these mineral levels further, and so children should drink diluted squash, or a rehydration solution rather than ordinary water.
Heat Exhaustion/ Heat Stroke
Heat exhaustion happens when your body becomes too hot and starts to lose water and salts. The condition leads to symptoms such as dizziness, headache and nausea.
Heat stroke is less common but more serious. When suffering from heat stroke the body can no longer cool itself and the high temperature puts a strain on your brain, heart, lungs, liver and kidneys.
If left untreated heat exhaustion can develop into heat stroke. Avoiding both conditions is all about staying hydrated, cool and comfortable.
This leaves babies and young children, again, particularly vulnerable to the conditions as they can’t control their environment the way adults can.
When it’s hot create a breeze by opening doors and windows (but beware of slamming doors!) and keep your children’s clothing loose fitting and lightweight. When they are outside, activities like playing in a paddling pool or sprinkler are a fun way to keep your children cool. It is recommended, though, that infants stay out of the sun as much as possible, especially between 11am and 3pm.
If you’re worried your child is suffering from heat exhaustion or heat stroke you can help them by:
- Getting them to lie down in a cool place
- Removing any unnecessary clothing
- Cooling their skin - a damp cloth or sponge works well for this
- Fanning their skin while it’s wet
- Giving them fluids to drink
If they aren’t feeling better within 30 minutes it’s time to seek medical assistance.
It can be very worrying when your children are unwell, so if they seem better but you’re still concerned, call NHS 111 for further advice.
Sunburn can be very painful in the short term and long term it increases your child’s chances of developing serious health problems like skin cancer, so it’s really important to keep your little one’s skin properly protected from harmful UV rays.
Infants under six months old should be kept out of the sun altogether because their skin contains too little melanin. Older children should also be kept out of the sun as much as possible and wear a high factor (SPF 30 or above) sunscreen that has broad spectrum protection against both UVA and UVB rays. Apply their suncream liberally and often, especially if your children are playing in water.
Children should also wear a sunhat with a wide brim or long back to protect their neck.
Getting a Restful Night’s Sleep
Another big problem for your little ones in hot weather can be getting a good night’s sleep. We all struggle with restless nights when it’s too warm so try and keep your little one’s bedroom between 16 and 20˚C, as this is the ideal temperature for them to sleep comfortably. You might want to purchase a room thermometer to help you monitor the temperature of your child’s bedroom.
When it comes to tucking them into bed, midwife Anne Richley recommends, “Sleep in whatever you’re comfortable in and add one layer for your baby. If you don’t need covers, your little one probably only needs one. If you’re sleeping naked, then a sleepsuit and no blankets for your baby will be just fine. In very hot conditions your baby may not even need this.”
This advice should stop your little ones getting hot and bothered this summer and leave your family free to enjoy the better weather! If you have any more advice to share about childcare in the hot weather post your advice on our Facebook and Twitter pages.