Popping out for a stroll around the block with your toddler in tow is a great way to get in exercise and enjoy the summer weather. However, if you are hot and sweaty out in the sun, chances are your little one probably is too. Babies and toddlers are less equipped to cool down their bodies, and hot weather may increase their risk of dehydration and overheating. While there is no specific high temperature threshold for your little one to be outside, you should take the steps to protect your little one from extreme heat.

It is important to respond quickly when you child presents any symptoms of dehydration. The best option is to find a cool, shaded place for your little one to rest and provide them with plenty of liquids to replenish lost fluids. If the child does not improve within 15 minutes, he or she should be taken to the emergency room.

Check out the tips below to help keep your little one cool and comfortable in the summer heat:

Limit Your Time: Limit the amount of time that your child is exposed to the sun and heat. Avoid spending time outside during peak daytime hours when the sun is the strongest and the temperature is highest. This is usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m. Since this time gap covers the majority of prime outdoor time, stay in the shade as much as possible when outside during these peak hours.

Dress for Success: Avoid direct sun and don’t dress your little one in restrictive clothing or layers. Light-colored clothing is best. If your baby is not protected from the sun by a cover or stroller awning, keep the sun off your baby’s face and neck by dressing them in a brimmed hat, especially if your baby has little or no hair.

Check Your Stroller: While you may think it is a good idea to keep your child’s stroller or pram covered, it may actually be holding in heat, causing an even hotter environment for your child. Instead, use a stroller that has an overhead canopy to protect from the sun, but also allows airflow on the sides.

Introduce Heat Slowly: Your little one’s ability to adapt to heat comes slowly as a newborn. It may take up to two weeks for your baby to adapt to hot temperatures. Introduce warm weather gradually by spending an increasing amount of time outside each day, starting with 15 minutes at a time. Be sure to take regular breaks from the heat.

Remember to Hydrate: Babies are not able to tell you when they need a drink, so it is important to provide them access to plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially when it is a hot one! Don’t over-hydrate, though. Let your baby hold their bottle, and drink as needed. The best option for rehydration is plain water.

Signs of dehydration in infants and small children include:
  • Playing less than usual
  • Irritability (frequent crying)
  • Urinating less frequently (fewer than 4 to 6 wet diapers per day)
  • Parched, dry lips
  • Mildly elevated body temperature (above 100°)
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • Sunken soft spot on the top of head in infants
Your child may be severely dehydrated if they have been exposed to heat and present any of the below symptoms:
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Dry mucous membranes
  • Elevated body temperature in fever range
  • Sunken eyes
  • Lack of urination (less than 3 times per day)

One final reminder: several children die every year from heat exposure as the result of being left in hot vehicles. Remember to check ALL passenger areas and car seats for the presence of a child every time you exit the car, especially when leaving the vehicle in the morning for work or feeling rushed. It is NEVER safe to leave a child or a pet in a car during hot weather, even if leaving for only a few minutes to run an errand.

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