It’s a practice we’ve all done at one time or another. You’re out and about, pushing your baby in their stroller. It’s a hot day, and you’re concerned that the heat and brightness might be too much for your baby. So you fumble around in your diaper bag, find a light blanket, and drape it across your stroller so that your baby can stay cool. Sounds pretty freaking normal, right?
Except it turns out that this practice may do more harm than good. You see, by placing a blanket – even a light one, like a muslin cloth – over the stroller, you are actually locking heat in, rather than keeping it out. And it turns out that the temperature that the inside of your baby’s stroller could rise to is potentially very dangerous – even deadly.
“It gets extremely hot down in the pram, something like a thermos,” Norgren explained. “There is also bad circulation of the air and it is hard to see the baby with a cover over the pram.”
To test Norgren’s theory, the newspaper decided to do an experiment of their own. They placed a stroller (without a baby in it!) in the sun between the hours of 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m. Without any cover, the temperature inside the stroller was 71.6 degrees.
But with a cover? It shot up to a whopping 93.2 degrees within 30 minutes. And after 60 minutes, it spiked to 98.6 degrees. That’s hot as hell – and absolutely terrifying to consider.
“OK,” you might say, “I’ve done that a million times, and nothing bad happened.” Well, it’s possible that you didn’t leave your baby for as long as it would take for the stroller to overheat, that your baby was in the shade, or that you simply got lucky. But honestly, is leaving your baby in potentially harmful situation a chance anyone should take?
The thing is, heat stroke is not anything to play around with. Babies and young children are particularly susceptible to extreme temperatures, explains the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP). “Infants and small children are not able to regulate their body temperature in the same way that adults do,” they write. “Every year, children die from heat stroke from being left in a hot car, often unintentionally, with the majority of these deaths occurring in children 3 and under.”
Exactly. Cars heat up in similar ways to covered strollers. It may only be 80 degrees outside, but when you are in an enclosed car, temperature can rise up to 30-40 degrees higher than the temperature outside, and quickly, as the AAP notes. Although there are no statistics on how many babies have suffered heat stroke or death when placed in overheated strollers, an average of 38 children die in hot cars each year.
So how can you keep your strolling baby cool in the summer months? Definitely stay in the shade as much as possible, for one. Other tips for keeping your baby cool – courtesy of the North South Wales Government Health site (NSW) – include:
– Dress your baby in one layer of loose, light-colored clothing
– Keep your baby hydrated, and plan on breastfeeding or bottle-feeding more frequently
– Use broad-rimmed hats and sunscreen (for babies over 6 months) to protect your baby’s skin from the sun
– If possible, keep your baby inside during heat waves or very hot days, especially during the peak hours of 11-5 p.m.
– When inside, use air conditioners, fans, or cold cloths to keep your baby cool
Of course, you want to be proactive so that your baby doesn’t even get close to exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion or stroke. But because these things can happen to even the most conscientious parents, so it’s good to familiarize yourself with the signs. Here’s what to know, according to NSW Health:
Early signs of heat stroke in babies (heat exhaustion)
– Not seeming like themselves, irritable
– Clammy or pale skin
– Extra sleepy
– Decrease in wet diapers, dark colored urine
– Thirstier than usual, or so lethargic that baby becomes uninterested in drinking and eating
– Dry mouth, fewer or no tears when crying
– Baby’s soft spot (fontanelle) becomes sunken in
Signs of heat stroke
– Increased body temperature
– Hot skin that may look red
– Fast breathing
– Seeming confused
Obviously, if your baby exhibits any symptoms of heat stroke, it’s important to call 911 and visit a hospital ASAP. Anyone who has heat stroke needs immediate medical care, but babies are especially vulnerable to overheating, so you really can’t delay and should seek treatment for your baby without hesitation.
Listen: thinking about these things is not fun at all. I wish we could all just let all these safety warnings slide off our backs, and parent as we see fit. The thing is, there are certain pieces of parenting advice that we absolutely should make our own personal decisions about – and be as low-key and “lazy” about as we want.
But not when it comes to situations that may put our children’s lives in danger. Yes, the chances of these things happening to us is somewhat small. But I know that I would much rather be safe than sorry.
So next time you are out and about with your little one – even if the sun is blazing and everyone is pressuring you to shield your baby from the sun with a blanket or cloth – please don’t do it. The consequences of doing this for even a few minutes could be harmful, or worse.
And spread the word. Most of us never realized this could be dangerous, but it most definitely is, and we’ve got to make sure all parents ditch the blankets-over-stroller practice ASAFP.