By Rebel Wylie on Kidspot
We always thought it was OK, and NSW Health even suggests it as a way to keep baby cool, but overseas experts claim that covering a pram with a muslin cloth or blanket may actually be putting our babies at risk. We show you the research.
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 SIDS as their body temperature reaches dangerous levels much sooner.
And those prams can get pretty hot.
“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,” Svante Norgren, paediatrician at the Astrid Lindgren Children’s hospital in Stockholm, says in an interview with Swedish newspaper, the Svenska Dagbladet.
Cars aren’t the only dangerous environment for babies in the heat
We know that cars heat up rapidly on a hot day, but what about prams?
Following on from the suggestions from Dr Norgen, the newspaper conducted some experiments of their own to see just how hot it could get inside the stroller. They left a stroller out in the Swedish sun between 11.30am and 1pm on a warm day.
Without a cover the pram the temperature reached 22ºC. A thin cover was placed over for the next 30 minutes, by which time the heat has risen to 34ºC. After an hour it had reached 37ºC. Remember, that is Swedish summer heat – around 30ºC tops – here in parts of Australia we see temperatures much higher than that. So what is the advice here?
NSW Health suggests: “An enclosed pram can get very hot; try to ensure that the air circulates around your baby by removing the back panel (if possible) or placing them in more open strollers.”
Aerated covers made of mesh material also circulate air better.
And 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.
In fact, WA Child and Adolescent Community Health principal nursing advisor Isabel Redfern suggests that staying indoors and out of the heat when possible is safer alternative.
“Mums and dads are still walking with covered prams in the middle of the day,” she says. “They think that once they put the baby in the pram and put the cover over, that the baby is being protected, but they are actually heating it up. It can get very, very warm. The parents think the baby is fine because it is sleeping a lot but that can actually be more of a concern because you have overheated them. This can happen on any day where the sun has got a bit of a bite in it.”
Her advice is to use UV covers but restrict pram walking in summer to before 10am and after 3pm, or even much later during a heatwave.
What are the dangers?
Hot weather affects your baby or child because their bodies cannot adjust to changes in temperature as well as adults. Babies and children sweat less, reducing their bodies’ ability to cool down, and they generate more heat during exercise than adults. They are at risk of overheating and developing a heat-related illness. Heat can also make existing illnesses worse.
40ºC is the temperature at which serious kidney or brain injuries may occur – it is also the body temperature at which fatalities can occur meaning that heading this advice is so, so important.
While we think that offering bubs some shade is helping them in the heat, we may be endangering them. The risk of SIDS (Sudden Infant Death Syndrome) is dramatically increased when a young baby is exposed to intense heat. SIDS Australia says, “Thermal stress (overheating) has been implicated in Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) for many years and avoiding overheating has been one of the strategies to reduce the risk of SIDS.”
As for covering the pram? Dr Norgen says, “It would quickly become uncomfortable and potentially dangerous for the child … if a child gets too hot then the child may think that it is back in the womb, which is why breathing may stop,”
Here’s what you need to remember in warm weather:
The recommendations from NSW Health are: If your child is sick (fever, vomiting or diarrhoea, or even a mild cold), they need extra attention to ensure they remain well hydrated and don’t overheat. See your doctor if your child is unwell. Full recommendations on how to keep your family hydrated and well in hot weather can be read HERE.
- 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 children extra drinks in hot weather, the best drink is water
- Dress babies and children in cool clothing and protect them from the sun with hats and sunscreen
- Never EVER leave children in the car, not even for a moment