How to cool a child down in hot weather is at the forefront of most parents' minds when a heatwave is imminent.
Sunshine and soaring temperatures are two factors that parents are extra-vigilant of in the summer months. The intense temperatures during a heatwave leave our little ones feeling irritable, uncomfortable, and in extreme circumstances, susceptible to dehydration.
Whilst the latter may sound alarming, there are a number of simple tips that parents can try to alleviate a warm child - from keeping the house cool to investing in the right sheets to help them to sleep. You shouldn't immediately panic if your child gets hot and bothered on warm days - it can often be easily remedied. However, what's most vital is knowing how to prevent things from becoming serious, how to spot the signs of dehydration or heatstroke, and taking quick action if they occur.
How to cool a child down in hot weather
1. UP THEIR FLUIDS
It’s essential for parents to monitor and increase their child's fluid intake during warm weather.
On a very hot day, babies may need as much as 50% more breast milk - so ensure they have a lot of opportunities to drink. If they have formula feeds, they can be offered small amounts of cooled boiled water on top of normal feeds.
Mothers who are breastfeeding should also ensure they keep their fluid levels up to increase their own hydration and subsequent milk supply.
Children who are weaning or older than 6 months, can take regular sips of water from a cup. Whilst those aged 1 or over can be offered regular water, very diluted fruit juice, or frozen lollies of water, which are great ways of ensuring they take in fluids and avoid dehydration.
Signs of dehydration in babies to look out for are fewer wet nappies (under 6 in a day), less tears when crying, a lack of energy or a dry mouth that’s tacky inside.
If you are worried that your little one is showing symptoms, it’s important not to worry and to promptly feed them or give them water. Keeping them away from direct sunlight and in the shade will also help.
All Wriggles and Giggles venues have fans to keep us cool. We are also open through the summer holidays 10 - 11.30. Mondays Yarm, Wednesdays Hartburn & Thursdays Ingleby Barwick
2. APPLY A COLD COMPRESS
A cold wet flannel or makeshift ice compress is a quick and readily available hack that will help to cool a child down in hot weather.
If your baby or toddler is overheating, try wrapping a few ice cubes in a muslin square and use this to cool down your baby in their crib or buggy.
3. GIVE THEM A BATH
A splash in the tub is perfect for cooling little ones down during the day or before bed.
If you’re worried about your little one feeling uncomfortable and sticky, opt for a cool or lukewarm bath for baby just before bedtime.
Scientists found that a bath before bed helps to lower the body's core temperature which in turn aids better sleep.
The NHS also recommends a cool bath before bed and a dip in a shallow paddling pool for older infants.
Playing in a paddling pool is a good way of keeping babies and children cool. Keep the pool in the shade during very hot weather and supervise the children carefully at all times.
4. CHOOSE COOL SURFACES
It’s good practice to check the temperature of surfaces where you are putting your child down to rest, play or change.
Just as important as the materials on your baby’s skin is the surface that you lay them on, make sure it’s not sticky like a changing mat (put a muslin down first for example when changing in the middle of the night) and not too hot like a fleece just because it is softer.
It’s also worth investing in special cooling mats that feature hydrophilic cooling gel, which slot into a number of new-born prams and helps keep their temperature down on summer days. What’s more, these mats can be placed in the fridge or freezer for a few hours to improve their cooling effect.
5. DRESS THEM IN SUITABLE AND MINIMAL CLOTHING
A sun hat and cotton clothing is how to cool a baby down in the heat
As with adults, what your baby wears on their body during sunny days can drastically affect their temperature.
Certain fabrics and items are better suited for warmer weather and making conscious clothing choices can help cool your baby down in the heat.
Wearing the right clothing is key. Loose fitting clothes which cover their arms and legs are best. Breathable fabrics such as cotton are advised and you can also find SPF protective clothing in some shops. Wide brimmed baby sun hats or those with neck flaps with air vents are also really important, as are sunglasses.
If you've dressed them in appropriate clothing and are still concerned that they are overheated, then don't be afraid to strip off their layers.
Remove clothes down to the nappy in a completely shaded area or put on fresh natural fibre loose-fitting clothes. You should also remove hats to allow heat loss from all of the head.
6. LIGHT LAYERS AT NIGHT
Loose, natural layers are also recommended on hot nights when trying to cool your baby down for sleep.
The general rule of thumb for clothing at night is that your baby would need one extra layer of thin clothing to what you need. If you don’t need anything due to the heat, a thin vest top over their nappy should be sufficient and breathable.
7. INVEST IN COTTON SHEETS
Cotton sheets have been scientifically proven to improve sleeping in the heat whether you're a baby or fully-fledged adult.
In the warmer weather, change baby's bottom sheets to cotton rather than nylon - the latter will absorb sweat.
It's important to make sure the sheet is safely secured in your baby's cot bed so that there's a reduced risk of the sheet coming loose and covering your little one in the night.
8. VENTILATE AND SHADE THEIR BEDROOM
Keep their bedroom curtains or blinds closed during the day with windows and doors open to stop the rooms heating up too much before bed.
Another tip is to invest in a fan for their room which you can turn on ahead of their bedtime.
If the room is very hot a fan generally just moves hot air about, so a good trick is to freeze a bottle of water and stand it in a bowl in front of the fan straight from the freezer. This will help to cool the air the fan is moving around in the room and by the time the temperature starts to drop the water will have defrosted.
Start this about half an hour before you put baby to bed so you can check the room temperature is safe for your baby’s bedtime.
9. SLEEP DOWNSTAIRS
If you're in a house remember that heat rises, so a simple solution that parents can try to cool a baby down at night is to switch up where they sleep.
If it really is too hot upstairs, change to sleeping in a room downstairs for a while as it will be slightly cooler. Our heatwaves never last that long so it will likely only be a couple of days that you have to change to a cooler room.
10. PUSHCHAIR ACCESSORIES
Pushchair gadgets and added extras like detachable parasols and fans are a parent’s best friend in the heat.
Fans clipped to prams or pushchairs can be really handy if you’re out and about. This is because they’ll shade your baby without stopping air flow.
One common misconception is to cover your baby’s pushchair or pram with a blanket to keep them cool and shaded - but this is incredibly dangerous.
Never cover the buggy with a blanket or muslin when baby is inside. It will act as insulation and the temperature can build to 40 degrees in a pram. Instead use a parasol and buggy fan.