Monday, July 24, 2006

Keeping Baby Cool when it's Hot Outside

By Christina VanGinkel

This summer is coming down to being one of the hottest ever on record. Heat, infants, and toddlers do not go together. Keeping them cool is a huge concern for parents and caregivers. While you should never, under any circumstances, leave an infant or other young child unattended in car, they can also become overheated in many other common scenarios. Beating the heat before it becomes a problem should be a major goal.

If you have air conditioning available, take advantage of it. Do be cautious when moving a child from one extreme of temperature to another though, and never depend on it to keep your child cool. Air conditioners can and do fail. Keep a couple of fans on backup, and use them to keep the air moving. Open windows to keep the air moving, but be sure you have baby window gates in place if there is any chance that baby may get close to a window higher than ground level.

If all you have is a single room air conditioner, and it is not keeping up with tackling the obsessive heat this summer, block off a single room, so that it does not have such a large are to cool. Move baby and yourself into that space temporarily. Not only will this help keep you both cooler, your air conditioner will not have to work so hard, saving you both money and wear and tear on the unit.

Head to the bathroom, the tub that is! Fill the tub with a few inches of cool water, not cold, and toss in a couple of toys. Either climb in with baby for a quick cool down or sit 'poolside' and watch as baby plays.

Strip baby down to the bare essentials. If it is so hot that clothes are sticking, making baby hotter than need be, then remove them. If you want, leave the diaper in place, otherwise, even remove that. Toss a towel or blanket that can be easily washed down on the floor, where it is the coolest, and place baby down to play. Holding baby when it is very hot will only increase their level of warmness. If they are still craving contact, get down on the floor with them to play, but avoid holding them unless it is necessary.

Head to your lower level, such as the basement, keeping in mind that the higher you go the hotter it will be. If you are in an apartment and are situated on a higher floor, ask yourself where else you might be able to go.

Make a plan of action ahead of time on where you could go in extremely hot weather if your home cooling system did fail, such as another family member's home, a local mall, etc. In cases of power outages, listen to the radio to hear any announcements that will provide you with information on such issues. Be prepared by keeping a battery-operated radio on hand with fresh batteries just for such occasions. In this power run world that we live in, these occurrences are more common than we would like to think they are. Communities will often open up senior centers, hospital conference rooms, and other buildings with large, open areas to those without power.

If you live far out in the country, consider purchasing a generator for occurrences such as these. If there is a power failure, even a smaller generator will often be enough to run a room-sized air conditioner.

Make sure your child is staying hydrated. Offer water and other fluids more often than you normally would. Popsicles and other cool treats are also great ways to help keep them cool.

If you have to be outside, make sure to keep the sun off baby as much as possible. Stay in the shade as much as possible. Place a loose fitting sunbonnet on your child's head, take advantage of the canopy on your stroller, or utilize an umbrella. Even an umbrella meant for the rain will be better than no umbrella at all. Avoid blacktopped areas as they reflect the heat making it even hotter than it already is. Use a baby play shade tent at the park. This way, baby can get out of his stroller, but still stay in the shade.

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