Babies and young children are particularly vulnerable in hot weather as they can’t regulate their heat and they can’t communicate how they feel very easily. They can become ill during very hot weather and their health may be seriously affected by dehydration, heat exhaustion and heatstroke, and sunburn. Keep a close eye on babies and young children during hot weather.
Tips on how to keep them hydrated
- Babies and young children need to drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated. Dehydration signs in to be aware of include a parched, dry mouth; fewer tears when crying; sunken soft spot of the head in a baby or toddler; fewer nappy changes.
- If you are breastfeeding, then you don’t need to give them water but may want to offer them more feeds than usual. Please ensure you keep your water intake up as well.
- If you’re bottle feeding, then you can offer your baby some cooled boiled water in addition to their standard feeds.
- Offer young children more water throughout the day. For older children adding ice cubes to drinks can be a fun way of encouraging them to drink more or take in more fluid.
- Feed them foods with a high water content, such as watermelon, cucumber, oranges, apples, broccoli and tomatoes. You could make healthy smoothies, homemade ice lollies made from pureed fruit or vegetables using a lolly making kit or ice cube trays, fruit sorbets together.
- Try offering frozen bananas, cut up into appropriately-sized slices before freezing.
- Have some fun making fruit kebabs or fruit shaped animals or using cookie cutters to cut out shapes in fruit. You could try making fruit pizza using water melon as the base and add cut up fruits for the toppings.
Tips for keeping cool
- Keep them indoors during the hottest part of the day and in the shade if you go outside.
- Keep indoor space cooler by closing blinds and curtains, and keep the use of electric lighting and other heat-producing items in the home to a minimum. Put a frozen bottle of water in front of a fan so that the air being circulated is cool.
- Ensure that their bedding and clothing that is made of natural fibres that will allow their skin to breath, such as cotton. Give babies and toddlers nappy-free time.
- Newborns can be kept cool with a damp cloth gently pressed against their skin (as you would for topping and tailing). Keep older babies cool by sitting them in a washing-up bowl with tepid water, or opt for the damp cloth if they don’t like baths. Older children can be kept cool using an ice cube in a muslin cloth, which you can dab on their wrist. (Please note: while you can use damp cloths to cool yourself or your children in hot weather. You are not recommended to when children have a fever.)
- If you go outdoors, please ensure that young babies are fully protected. They should not be exposed to the sun at all because they have insufficient protection. Children (and adults) should wear a high factor sunscreen. The NHS recommends factor 30 with 4-star UV radiation protection, see here. Also look out for clothing that provides UV radiation protection.
- Encourage wearing a sun hat, start when it’s not particularly sunny to avoid the hat-on-hat-off game, and offer a choice of sun hat when you can to give children an opportunity to express themselves and their growing independence. Sunglasses for older children should ideally be wrap-around ones and confirm to British standards (BSEN 1836:2005) and carry the CE mark.
- Enjoy cooling activities together, such as water play. Toddlers will enjoy measuring with a range of utensils to make water play educational whilst staying cool, or try painting with water on stones or the patio outdoors. For older children, you could try playing with ice cubes which have small toys hidden in them or coloured with food colouring. If you freeze partially full water balloons and hide small toys in the ice in the balloon, once they are frozen you can remove the balloon shell and the child can play with the ice inside to excavate the toy. Water spray containers (the ones you use to water house plants) can be a fun activity for children, as can a paddling pool. Please ensure that children playing in water are supervised at all times and that any games or toys are age appropriate. Please be aware that any small container with water can heat up significantly if left in the sun and could pose a burn risk to children’s skin, this includes water left in hose pipes.
- Cars are particularly hot in this weather and you may not be fully aware of the temperature in the rear of the car. If you have to drive anywhere, please ensure the air conditioning is on and the windows are closed.
Emotion coaching techniques for fretfulness
In addition to the practical ideas above, sooth your child by:
- Acknowledging how they might be feeling and empathising: “Ahh, I think you must be very hot and fed up. I feel a bit hot too.”
- Validating their frustration or grumpiness: “It’s normal to be grumpy when we feel too hot and flustered.”
- Being explicit about how you’re helping them and why : “I know you don’t feel like having the suncream put on, but it’s special cream that helps protect you from the hot sun and I’ll be super-fast putting it on for you.” Or turn it into a game: “Can you guess where I’m going to put a spot of sun cream on you?”
- Use fun activities to distract children as a way to problem solve how they’re feeling: “Let’s think of things we can do to help you feel cooler. I know let’s do some splashing, that will help cool you off.” You can say this to babies as well as toddlers and older children.