Now that summer’s finally here, you’re probably planning plenty of trips to the beach, park, playground or pool. But I warn all my patients about the dangers of extreme heat. In fact, it doesn’t even need to be scorching outside to take precaution. The best things to keep in mind involve protection against the sun’s harmful rays and to stay cool from the sweltering heat. Here are my go-to tips for enjoying a safe summer.
Stay out of the sun during prime hours
The sun is at its strongest between the hours of 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Of course, that’s the majority of the day, so I don’t expect you to keep your kiddo inside all that time, but at least be on high alert when it comes to sun protection during this time of the day. Seek out shade whenever possible to stay cool. Also, if you have a newborn or a child under one, it may take him time to acclimate to the hot weather, so start gradually, spending only short periods of time outdoors in the beginning.
Add a canopy to car seats and strollers
Remember, UV rays can come through the car, so even if she’s safely buckled up and behind the window, that’s not complete protection. You car seat or stroller might already come with a canopy extender that keeps baby shaded, but if not, consider adding one that can provide some extra coverage and keep your little one out of reach from the sun’s harmful rays. Be careful, however when it comes to using blankets. They’re great for keeping in the stroller in the winter, but when used in the summertime, even just for protection from the sun, can risk overheating.
Dress baby in light, breathable clothing
The best outfit for a hot day (for your baby that is!) is a onesie—a white or light-colored one if possible. A brimmed hat adds another layer of protection for her face and neck, which is especially handy if your little one hasn’t yet grown hair. Children older than 6 months can fare better in the sun, but it’s still smart to keep them dressed in breathable fabrics (cotton is great).
Always apply sunscreen
Even on cloudy days, it’s essential to apply sunscreen. I recommend a full spectrum-protection sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30. Full spectrum protection ensures it will protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Be sure to go heavy as opposed to light when you apply, as the American Academy of Dermatology reports that nearly half of people aren’t using enough sunscreen. Focus on key areas: the face, ears, legs, arms, feet and hands. Apply about 30 minutes before you head out for the day and reapply every two hours or every time your child comes out from the water. And, since the skin is your largest organ, it’s important to pay attention to the ingredient list—especially when little bodies are involved. The most toxic UV filters are oxybenzone and octinoxate. I recommend avoiding these ingredients and other harmful chemicals whenever possible. There are some less toxic UV filters that some of the more natural sunscreens contain including titanium dioxide, zinc oxide, and avobenzone to name a few. Or, you can make your own DIY sunscreen. Try my recipe here.
Spot signs of overheating
So many parents ask me how they can tell when they’re baby is too hot or overheating. I always say that if you feel like it’s too hot outside, your baby most certainly does as well. Any time temperatures rise about 75 degrees, it’s a good idea to stay alert. If you think she’s feeling uncomfortable, try to look out for signs of overheating, which include radiating body heat, sweating, extreme thirst and acting tired or lethargic. If you notice any of these signs, take your baby to a shaded area or, if possible, an indoor location with A.C. A cool towelette is also helpful to help bring down her body temperature.
Babies under 6 months of age who aren’t yet sipping water should hydrate with breast milk or formula. To find out how much is best for your little one, talk to his pediatrician. You do want to be careful not to overfeed. A rehydration liquid like Pedialyte may be a better solution if you live in a very hot climate. Babies older than 6 months can sip regular water.
If you think your baby might be dehydrated, look out for these symptoms:
- Dark yellow urine
- Cracked lips
- Crying with few or no tears
- Dry skin
- Sunken eyes
- Fewer than six wet diapers in 24 hours
Call your doctor immediately if you notice any of the above signs.