Dec 21, 2012

When babies overheat...

Summer is a glorious time to get out and about with your baby, visiting the local pool, exploring the beach or heading to the park for a weekday picnic. But the heat can be really tough on babies - much tougher than it is on adults.

Babies are hot little creatures in the first place, as they have faster metabolisms so generate more heat for their size than adults. Unfortunately, they don't perspire in the same way that adults do, so they're less able to regulate their body temperature naturally. As a result, they are particularly vulnerable to overheating.

What is heat stress? 

When your body is so hot that it can't cool itself down by sweating alone, a variety of physical conditions develop, all of which go under the general heading of "heat stress".
There are three stages to heat stress: dehydration, followed by heat exhaustion and finally the extreme condition of heat stroke, which can be fatal.

Is my baby dehydrated?

Babies suffering from dehydration may appear drowsy and listless, and could also have dry lips. Water is the best fluid to offer, but if your child is resisting water, you could also try diluted apple juice, jellies or fruit ice blocks. Don't be too concerned if your little one refuses food for a while, but keep up the fluids.

Does my baby have heat exhaustion? 

Babies experiencing heat exhaustion will appear tired, listless and dizzy. They may be suffering from headaches or nausea. They can also develop cold, clammy skin and shallow breathing. As soon as you're aware of the problem, move your baby to a cool place to lie down. Undress your bub to help him or her cool down, and apply cool, moist cloths to the forehead and wrists. Gentle fanning will help, too. Offer lots of fluid, as above.

Does my baby have heat stroke?

Babies with heat stroke will feel very hot and dry to the touch, will have obviously shallow breathing and a rapid pulse, and may lose consciousness. Heat stroke puts a huge strain on the body and babies with heat stroke should have urgent medical attention. In the meantime, remove your baby's clothing and use cool, moist cloths to help your child cool down.

How can I avoid heat stress?

Children don't have to be in direct sunlight to develop heat stress - being left in a hot, stuffy place, like a parked car will do it, too. Here are some things to keep in mind.
  • When the weather's hot, dress your baby in lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, preferably covering the arms and legs.
  • If you're going outdoors, make sure bub is wearing a full-brimmed hat plus sunscreen. You could also try out a pair of baby-sized sunglasses if your baby will wear them.
  • Make a conscious effort to keep up fluids to your child throughout the day.
  • Avoid going outdoors during the hotter parts of the day and encourage your little one to play in the shade.
  • NEVER LEAVE A BABY IN A PARKED CAR. The temperature inside a parked car can be as much as 30 to 40 degrees hotter than the outside temperature. Go to www.kidsafensw.org/road-safety/kids-unattended-in-cars for more information.

How should I treat heat stress?

As with any dehydrated baby, offer water first. If your child refuses water, try diluted apple juice, jellies and fruit ice blocks. Keep up the fluids and don't be worried if your littlie refuses food for a while.

If your baby is vomiting, has developed diarrhoea or is refusing fluids, then see your GP. If your bub is not producing a lot of urine, is in a lot of pain, or becomes abnormally sleepy or even unconscious, go straight to the emergency department of your local hospital.

 Extracted from http://baby-toddler-club.coles.com.au

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