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5 Tips On How To Look After Your Baby In The Desert Heat
Posted on May 13, 2013 by Ruth Loftus
Summers can be beautiful in the desert, but also very hot. Babies are especially sensitive to the sun and need to be closely monitored when out in the heat. UAE Medical offers tips on how to look after your baby when the sun is at it's worst.
As the summer heat approaches, people start making adjustments to their diet, liquid intake, wardrobe and even schedule, and young babies also need a lot of special care and attention in the heat. An increase in body temperature can be very dangerous for a baby - much more so than with adults or with older children whose body temperatures are easier to regulate. Babies under one year old need more protection from the heat because they have not yet developed sweat glands, so they are not physiologically able to cool themselves down. Since they can neither make themselves more comfortable or ask for help when they are too hot, it is up to parents and guardians to make these decisions on their behalf. Read on to learn about the best checks to have in place to ensure that your baby or small child keeps as cool as possible this summer.
1. Lots of Water
Babies can get dehydrated just like adults, but they have no way to quench their own thirst, so be sure to increase their liquid intake when the weather is hot. Breast-fed babies will need to be fed more regularly during hot weather than in colder temperatures to make sure they stay hydrated (it is also important for breastfeeding mothers to drink more than normal in hot weather to ensure that their bodies are thoroughly hydrated too). If increasing the number of feeds becomes difficult, supplement it with formula milk to ensure babies don't become thirsty. Do not be tempted to give young babies lots of water to rehydrate them, because babies under six months actually get all their fluids exclusively from the milk they drink (other liquids can interfere with their digestion and absorption of nutrients). Babies above six months can have small sips of water if they are thirsty, (regular tap water is usually best - depending on location). Learn to look for signs of dehydration in your baby; this could include dryer skin or dryer nappies than normal, or being more floppy or irritable than usual.
2. Suitable Nappies
An uncomfortable nappy can really cause a baby a lot of discomfort, and this is more relevant in hot weather because certain disposable nappy materials do not work well in warm climates. Cloth nappies are more suitable for hot weather because they are light and more breathable. This allows air to circulate which means babies should stay dry - therefore reducing the chance of heat rash. During warm spells, it is also advisable to leave babies nappy-less for periods of time while they’re at home (depending on whether floors and furnishings allow). This gives babies as much freedom from wearing any material and keeps them as cool as possible in the heat.
Babies’ skin is still too sensitive to be covered with lots of the spray sun creams available on the market, because the chemicals can be absorbed into their bloodstream and cause health problems. Other sun creams do the job more safely because they act like a barrier and block the suns rays, and these ones can be applied to extremities like hands, feet and nose. However, these creams can be thick and messy, and they require regular re-application. If your baby has to be in the sun, the best, most stress- free way to protect them is with clothing. One hundred percent pure cotton clothing is best, as it is a soft, breathable fabric which means it will not irritate a baby’s skin (some synthetic materials can aggravate the skin in hot conditions and increase the chances of heat rash developing). A lightweight, long sleeved, long legged romper is a good idea because it covers the whole body. For those willing to go the extra mile, it is possible to purchase sun protective clothing that comes with SPF weaved into the fabric.
4. A Decent Hat
In addition to normal clothing, be sure to put babies in a hat in hot weather. There is a huge selection of summer hats in lots of different shapes and sizes, but the most important thing is to make sure is that it fits comfortably and stays in place. A loose chinstrap is a good idea because it will stop the hat falling off, but an elastic band is not recommended because it can be too restrictive - and may even constrict blood circulation. Aim for a lightweight, light-coloured hat that will not absorb too much heat. Remember: the more skin that is covered, the more sun will be blocked, so aim for a wide-brimmed hat to shade the baby’s face and protect their eyes from the sun. Some hats also have an additional flap of material at the back to protect the neck area.
5. Lots of Shade
It is unrealistic to stay indoors with young babies at all times, but do try to avoid the midday sun between 10am and 4pm. If you do have to take your baby outdoors at this time, stay in the shade. It is a good idea get out of the sunlight and take breaks in the shade every so often. In addition, try an attachable sun umbrella or parasol to provide extra shade to the pram or stroller, or place a light sheet spread over it. If you are travelling by car, pay close attention to how long your baby spends inside. The car might be well shaded, but they tend to overheat quickly which may lead to heat stroke and can be very dangerous for babies. If you’re travelling by car, be sure to begin the journey early to avoid overheating, and never leave a baby unattended in a locked car - even if windows are open. Even when babies are indoors, certain rooms warm up more than others due to their position and how much heat and sunlight they take in. Be sure to put babies in the coolest, shadiest part of the building. Using a fan or air conditioning is fine, but monitor the temperature of the room carefully to make sure it doesn’t get too cold (24 - 26 degrees celcius is cold enough).