Here in Australia, we know the importance of keeping babies cool in the summer heat, but is a common thing that most of us do to help us keep the sun from babies actually putting them at risk?
Researchers in Sweden suggest that by covering up a pram – even with a thin cloth like a muslin wrap – actually creates a furnace-like heat within the pram, reducing the air circulation. Young children are more sensitive to heat than older children or adults, as their body temperature can rise three-to-five times faster. This puts them at greater risk of heatstroke and other health risks, such as major organ damage and even sudden death, as their body temperature reaches dangerous levels much sooner.
We know that cars heat up rapidly on a hot day, but what about prams?
“It gets extremely hot down in the pram, something like a thermos. There is also bad circulation of the air and it is hard to see the baby with a cover over the pram,” says Svante Norgren, paediatrician at the Astrid Lindgren Children’s hospital in Stockholm.
An experiment conducted in Sweden revealed on a 20ºC day and without a cover the pram temperature reached 22ºC. A thin cover placed over a pram for the next 30 minutes, by which time the heat rises to 34ºC. After an hour it reaches 37ºC. Remember, that is Swedish summer heat – around 30ºC tops – here in parts of Australia we see temperatures much higher than that.
We often see mums and dads walking with covered prams. They believe that the baby is being protected, and they don’t understand that the opposite may well be happening. It can get very, very hot even on a mild day. Parents may think the baby is fine because it is sleeping a lot, but that can actually be more of a concern because an overheated baby may initially be irritable and then become sleepy.
So what is the advice here?
- Be careful when buying your prams. Buy a pram with the baby facing you so that you can always see if they are happy or heat stressed (they love to be able to see you as well).
- Avoid prams with covers. Covers restrict air flow and remember even the best mesh will restrict air flow and increase the temperature inside the pram.
- If there are mesh covers on your pram – take them off. Let the air circulate freely around the child.
- Restrict walking in summer to before 10am and after 4pm- even later when there is a heat wave.
- Regularly check your baby’s temperature manually. If he or she is sweating or feels hot to touch, it’s time to get out of the sun. Very little babies may not show they are too hot.
- Staying indoors and out of the heat when possible is a safer alternative.
- Even in winter always be able to see your child and ensure fresh air is freely circulating around their face.
- It is important to maintain the same practice and refrain from covering the pram to create a sleep environment. Your child will learn to sleep where you can always see them, and you can be assured that they are happy and well.