Throwing a cover over the stroller when out and about with your baby might seem like an obvious way to keep her cool and protected from the sun on a hot summer day. (Since babies under six months can’t wear sunscreen, many moms and dads make sure the stroller is fully shaded.) But some parents are actually making matters worse, says Svante Norgren, a paediatrician at the Astrid Lindgren Children’s Hospital in Stockholm. Norgren told a local newspaper that even a thin muslin blanket can make conditions inside a stroller uncomfortably hot, and put your baby at risk. “It gets extremely hot down in the pram, something like a thermos,” Norgren told Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
The newspaper tested Norgren’s theory and found that after 90 minutes, an uncovered buggy heated up to 22 degrees, while a stroller with a thin covering reached 34 degrees in just 30 minutes. After an hour in the sun, it was a scary 37 degrees.
These findings don’t surprise Anne Rowan-Legg, a paediatrician at Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario and assistant professor in the paediatrics department at the University of Ottawa. She says it’s a lack of airflow that causes the temperatures inside covered strollers to soar. “Temperatures can rise quite quickly in a confined covered space, just like in a car,” she says. And that can pose a serious risk to little ones.
“Babies and young children are more vulnerable to the heat than older children and adults,” says Rowan-Legg. That’s because they sweat less, their ability to regulate body temperature is less efficient and they can’t tell you when they’re feeling too hot. This puts them at increased risk of heat-related illness, dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Infants and young children who are suffering from exposure to extreme heat may show signs of faintness, extreme tiredness and intense thirst. Other signs of heat-related illness include vomiting, quick breathing and restlessness, and heat can make existing illnesses or medical conditions worse.
That doesn’t mean you have to be cooped up during a heat wave, though. Keep little ones safe while you stroll by following these guidelines:
-Instead of a blanket, use a large canopy, or a mesh or perforated sun shield designed for strollers. These will keep baby shaded while ensuring adequate airflow.
-Dress baby in lightweight, loose-fitting clothing.
-Give your baby more fluids than usual, to keep him hydrated.
-Avoid peak hours and stick to the shade as much as possible.
-Check on little ones often, feeling their skin to ensure they’re cool.
If you don’t have air conditioning at home to help your family cool off after an outing, be strategic and plan breaks at a coffee shop or café with AC. “Seek comfort at a public library, the mall or a community shelter provided especially for relief from the heat,” says Rowan-Legg.