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How to keep your child hydrated in the sun


Advice on keeping your little one safe and hydrated in the sun

Babies and young children can become seriously ill during very hot weather suffering from dehydration, heat exhaustion and even heatstroke and so it's vital you know how to keep them cool.

How to prevent your child overheating

On sunny days babies under six months should never be in direct sunlight and young children should be kept in the shade much as possible, especially between 11am and 3pm.

Attach a parasol or sunshade to the pushchair to keep baby out of direct sunlight and make sure toddlers and older children wear a sunhat, preferably one with a wide brim or a long flap at the back, to protect their head and neck.

Apply high factor sunscreen even when there is cloud coverage and re-apply regularly, particularly if your child is in and out of the sea or a paddling pool.

Keep children’s nightwear and bedclothes to a minimum. If it is very warm babies can sleep in just a vest and nappy, or just a nappy with a thin sheet over them.

You can use a nursery thermometer to monitor the room temperature. Your baby will sleep most comfortably when the room is between 16°C (61°F) and 20°C (68°F). But the best way to tell if a baby is too warm is to feel the back of his neck, tummy, or back underneath the clothing (babies’ hands and feet are usually cooler than the rest of their body).

Keep hydrated

Babies and infants are sensitive to even small amounts of fluid loss so one of the biggest problems during warmer weather is dehydration which, in severe cases, can be life-threatening.

Early warning signs of dehydration are feeling thirsty and lightheaded and having concentrated, strong-smelling urine.

Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids. If you're breastfeeding you won’t need to give them water as well as breast milk, but you may find your baby is thirstier and wants to breastfeed more than usual.

If your baby is on solids or mixed feeds you can give her cooled boiled water throughout the day as well as their usual feeds.   

Heat exhaustion and heatstroke

On a warm day, never sit in a stationary car with your baby for too long. Even with the windows open temperatures can rise frighteningly quickly.

Prams can become hot and airless so keep a careful eye on your baby if she falls asleep in her pram.

Heat exhaustion occurs when the temperature inside the body rises to 37-40°C (98.6-104°F). At that temperature, the levels of water and salt in the body begin to drop causing nausea, faintness and heavy sweating.

It can be very difficult to spot these symptoms in a young child, especially if they are crying and seem red in the face and sweaty as a result of a tantrum.

If left untreated the temperature may rise above 40°C (104°F) which is classed as classic heatstroke. In severe cases this can result in organ failure, brain damage and death.

Early symptoms of heatstroke can include mental confusion, hyperventilation (rapid shallow breathing) and loss of consciousness. These too can be difficult to spot in a baby or young child so the thermometer has to be your initial guide. Heatstroke is very serious and should be treated as a medical emergency.

How to keep cool during the day

  • Avoid synthetic fabrics that trap heat; opt for loose natural fibres like cotton or muslin
  • Give babies as much nappy-free time as possible
  • Stay in the shade and encourage your child to spend some quiet time to prevent him sweating too much
  • Playing in a paddling pool will keep kiddies cool. Keep it in the shade and supervise their play
  • Use a mini fan if you are out and about
  • Use cold, wet flannels, or give them a tepid bath or shower to cool their skin. Let them air dry rather than using towels
  • Make sure your child drinks plenty of fluids

How to keep cool at night

  • Remove unnecessary bedding. Opt for a cool muslin sleeping bag
  • If he is still hot let him sleep in a vest and nappy, or even just a nappy
  • Open windows in several rooms to create a through breeze
  • Give them a tepid bath, or sponge bath, before bed and let them air dry while lying on a towel so the evaporation of the water will cool their skin down
  • Keep bedrooms cool throughout the day by closing blinds or curtains. Turn a room fan on before bedtime. A fan can be left on all night – but well out of reach and never pointed directly at the cot or bed
  • Hanging wet towels over chairs or windows cools the air
  • Remove waterproof under sheets or cover with several layers of cotton sheets to absorb perspiration
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