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Extreme Heat & Your Child

Updated: Oct 22, 2019

A heat index at or above 90°F, as identified by the National Weather Service,

poses a significant health risk.

Toddler playing with car

Hot weather can affect your babies and children because their bodies are not as good at adjusting to changes in temperature as those of adults. Babies and children not only generate more heat during exercise than adults, they also sweat less, which reduces their ability to cool down. They are at risk of overheating and developing a heat-related illness. Heat can also make existing illnesses worse.

Things to know

  • Babies and children overheat and dehydrate quickly in hot weather.

  • Breastfeed or bottle-feed your baby more often in hot weather.

  • Offer older babies and toddlers extra drinks in hot weather; the best drink is water.

  • Dress babies and children in light clothing and protect them from the sun with hats and sunscreen.

  • Never leave children in the car, not even for a moment.

  • If your child is sick (fever, vomiting or diarrhea, or even a mild cold), he or she will need extra hydration. See your doctor if your child is unwell.

Fluids, fluids and more fluids

  • It is important to offer drinks or breastfeedings frequently because babies and young children are not able to tell you that they are thirsty.

  • Babies less than six months of age will need to be fed more often in hot weather. Water or other drinks are not needed unless recommended by a doctor.

  • In hot weather, skin contact can be quite uncomfortable for a baby at feeding times. Try using a towel, sheet, or nappy between yourself and the baby.

  • A good indicator that a baby is getting enough fluids is whether he has wet diapers. Fewer than 6 to 8 wet diapers in a 24-hour period should be of concern.

  • If you are breastfeeding your baby, make sure you also drink plenty of water.

  • Offer young toddlers water as their main drink. Sugary drinks are not recommended.

  • Encourage your toddler to drink regularly; toddlers often forget to drink because they are busy playing.

Keeping your child cool

  • For sleeping, choose the coolest room in the house. Keep the heat out by closing the curtains and making sure fresh air can circulate around the bassinet or crib (no bumpers or padding in cribs). Don’t leave babies asleep in a stroller as they can become very hot.

  • If you use a fan, don’t point it directly at your baby or child; instead, use it to keep the air circulating.

  • If your house is very hot, visit family or friends who may have a cool house, or go to your local shopping center, library, or cinema.

Keeping cool outdoors

  • If possible, keep your children inside during the hottest parts of the day—generally between 11:00 a.m. and 5:00 p.m. Plan your activities for early morning, late afternoon, or evening.

  • If you have to go out, protect your child’s skin from the sun (keep them in the shade or cover their skin with loose clothing and a broad-brimmed hat). Use small amounts of sunscreen with SPF 30+ on skin that cannot be covered.

  • Sunscreen should be reapplied at least every 2 hours.

  • If your child does a lot of outdoor activities and exercise, take regular breaks and provide plenty of fluids.

Staying safe from heat in cars

  • Never leave babies, children, or pets alone in a car, not even for a moment. Babies and children can overheat very quickly in cars. The temperature inside a parked car can be 86–104°F hotter than outside the car. Most of the temperature increase occurs within five minutes of closing the car door, and having the windows down 2 inches causes only a very slight decrease in temperature.

  • Never cover a baby’s car seat with a rug or towel as this will restrict air moving around the baby, making the baby hotter. Use sunshades on windows.

  • When planning a longer car journey, try to travel in the cooler hours of the day, dress your child lightly, and provide plenty of cool water during the journey.

Taking extra precautions with medications

Keep in mind that some prescribed medications can increase the risk of heat-related illness. Also, some medications can be less effective or more toxic when exposed to and stored in high temperatures. Most medications need to be stored below 77°F or in the fridge. Please see the labels or ask your local pharmacist.

Other considerations and tips for staying cool

  • Freeze fruit pieces (orange quarters, watermelon) for a refreshing treat.

  • Give more frequent, smaller meals; offer chilled food items; minimize hot food.

  • Don't forget about your child's mental health. Children may become anxious or restless from being kept indoors. Plan ahead for entertainment with indoor activities and games— and limit the amount of screen time.

It is very important to be aware of the first signs and symptoms of heat-related illness to avoid major complications or even fatal consequences, because the extreme effects heat can have on babies and toddlers may rapidly evolve into a serious, life-threatening situation.


Signs & Symptoms of Heat-Related Illness: What to Do

Heat Exhaustion

Signs and symptoms

  • Looking unwell and more irritable than usual.

  • Having pale and clammy skin.

  • Feeling sleepy and floppy.

  • Making fewer wet diapers than usual.

  • Having dark urine (normal is a light, straw color).

  • Refusing to drink.

  • Experiencing intense thirst (but as baby gets weaker, he or she may drink less).

  • Having dry skin, mouth, and eyes (no tears when crying).

  • Soft spot on baby’s head (fontanelle) may be deeper than usual.

If you think your baby or young child is suffering from heat exhaustion, seek medical advice immediately. Meanwhile, you can help by taking the following actions:

What to do first for children

  • Move child to a cool area and remove all extra clothes.

  • Cover child or baby with cool, damp cloths or sponge him or her down.

  • Offer your baby or child drinks (unless unconscious and not able to swallow).

  • Breastfed babies: offer the breast as much as possible. Water that has been boiled and then cooled may be considered, particularly for babies over six months old or those already receiving other fluids.

  • Bottle-fed babies: offer an extra bottle and water that has been boiled, then cooled.

  • Toddlers: offer water or diluted fruit juice (1 part juice in 4 parts water).

Heat Stroke

Signs and symptoms

All the signs of heat exhaustion as above plus the following:

  • Rising body temperature.

  • Red, hot, and dry skin.

  • Rapid breathing.

  • Vomiting.

  • Confusion.

  • Coma (not responding when touched or called).

What to do first for your child

Immediately call 911 and ask for an ambulance, then move to a cool area, remove all extra clothes, offer fluids if possible, and take the following actions:

  • Bring their temperature down using any method available (sponging with cool water, cool bath, or covering with cool damp cloths).

  • If unconscious, lay the child on their side (recovery position) and check that they can breathe properly. For babies, cradle them in your arms with their head tilted downward to make sure they do not choke on their tongue or vomit. Support their head with your hand.

  • Perform CPR if needed while medical help arrives.

To avoid heat-related problems, plan your week with special indoor or watery outdoor activities like these:

  • Visit a branch of the Austin Public Library.

  • Attend a free family event every first Sunday of the month at The Bob Bullock History Museum. Come say hi and sing with us this Sunday, August 5.

  • Visit any pool or splash pad of your preference. We have two great pools very close to our studio in Mueller: Ella Wooten Park and John Gaines Park.

  • If you want to set up a baby pool in your front porch or yard, remember to place it in a shaded area.

  • Enjoy ​Mi Casa Es Tu Casa's indoor music classes and Spanish classes!

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