Summer Baby Basics
Babies don’t have the ability to sweat and cool their bodies as well as older children and adults, so take extra care in dressing your little one during hot days. Look for soft, cotton fabrics that won’t trap moisture and will allow your baby’s skin to breathe. Loose-fitting clothing, such as a bodysuit and elastic-band shorts or sundress, are ideal. Dress your child in light layers so you can shed these as the day gets warmer or if you are moving from sun to shade. Keep in mind that dark-colored clothing absorbs heat; dressing your baby in lighter colors will help her feel as cool as possible.
The pediatricians at the Sutter Health Network in Northern California recommend keeping your baby covered with long-sleeved, lightweight clothing, [and a] hat, and sunshades as needed when temperatures are under 80 degrees Fahrenheit. They add, “If the temperature is in the 80 to 90 degrees Fahrenheit range or above, all your baby needs is a diaper and a T-shirt, a hat, and shade.” If your baby is overdressed, she may become sweaty and develop a heat rash. If your baby is underdressed, she’ll have cool hands and feet and a cold back. You can tell if your baby is dressed just right if her hands and feet are cool to the touch and her body feels warm.
An increase in temperature often means an increase in skin irritation for many babies. Heat rash, or prickly heat, is troublesome, but in most cases preventable. Heat rash is defined by a red, pimply rash that most often appears in the creases of your child’s skin and on parts of the body where clothing fits tightly (chest, neck, stomach, and buttocks). It is harmless but signals that your baby is dressed too warmly.
If you notice your child breaking out in prickly heat, loosen clothing and move her to the shade or a cool room. Help lower her temperature by using a cool, wet washcloth or bath (adding ground oatmeal or baking soda can help alleviate this uncomfortable rash in older babies and toddlers). And if your child seems especially sensitive when you touch her skin, ask your pediatrician if you can apply calamine lotion, a one-half–percent hydrocortisone cream, or pure aloe vera gel to the most irritated spots (be sure to check with your doctor first before applying anything to your baby’s skin).
If your child’s rash doesn’t dissipate in three to four days, or if it seems to get worse and is accompanied by a fever (a rectal temperature of 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit) that doesn’t respond to cooling techniques, call your doctor—these symptoms may be signs of something more serious than heat rash.
Shading Young Eyes
Dr. Sheryl Berman, MD, a medical officer in the FDA’s Division of Ophthalmic and Ear, Nose, and Throat Devices, says that wearing sunglasses reduces the risk of eye damage due to sun exposure (but doesn’t completely eliminate it). To best shade young eyes, pair children’s sunglasses with a wide-brimmed hat (Dr. Berman suggests at least three inches) for your child to wear this summer. Sunglasses should have the same UV-protection level as adult glasses. Polycarbonate lenses are generally recommended for children because they are the most shatter-resistant.
Outdoor and Water Safety
When venturing out on a family camping trip with your little one, Dr. Paul Roumeliotis, MD, founder and former director of the Montreal Children’s Hospital Pediatric Consultation and Asthma Centers, suggests “[pitching] your tent in a safe appropriate area, not on a hillside or too close to a lake or water. If you are building a campfire, make sure it is well away from your tent and pour water on it to make sure it is out before going to sleep.”
Dr. Roumeliotis also recommends bringing along a first aid kit with these valuable items: medicated (antibiotic) ointment, antihistamine syrup, calamine lotion, fever/pain medicine (acetaminophen), insect repellant, bandages, and sunscreen.
Just as you would never leave a child unattended in a car, you should never leave a child alone in or near water—even for a moment. According to the US Consumer Product Safety Commission (CPSC), an estimated 260 children under five years of age drown each year in residential swimming pools and spas. The CPSC estimates that another 3,000 children under age five are treated in hospital emergency rooms following submersion accidents each year.
Learn basic first aid and CPR and make sure any adults watching young children at a pool or lake know resuscitation. Surround backyard swimming pools on all sides with a sturdy, tall fence (at least five feet).
The AAP recommends that gates around pools self-close and self-latch at a height children can’t reach. Also, keep rescue equipment—a shepherd’s hook (a long pole with a hook on the end), a life preserver, and a telephone—near the pool. If your child is in or around water, a good rule to abide by is to make sure you’re within arm’s reach at all times.
BBQ and Food Safety
Summertime means picnics and camping for many families. Be sure when cooking outdoors that your youngster is far away from the grill. Keep all grilling accessories (charcoal, lighter fluid, propane, and so on) well out of the reach of children—either in a locked utility shed or on a high shelf in the garage.
Microorganisms grow faster in the warm summer months (food-borne bacteria grow fastest at temperatures from 90 to 110 degrees F); bacteria also need moisture to flourish, and summer weather is often hot and humid. To avoid exposing you and your children to these harmful bacteria, be sure to cook meat to the proper temperature, properly chill food in a cooler or car fridge, wash your child’s hands and cooking surfaces often, don’t cross contaminate (wrap up raw meat in coolers with several zippered plastic bags to prevent juices from leaking, and wash cooking utensils thoroughly), and throw away leftovers or chill them immediately.
During the summer months as you find yourself busy working in the yard, taking family trips, or firing up the grill, be especially aware of your child and her environment and surroundings. Extra caution now can help ensure that you and your child will have a safe, enjoyable summer.
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