Babies are more vulnerable to heat compared to adults. They can suffer from a number of heat exposure consequences at a faster rate, and more severe than what we usually expect. This is due to the fact that the baby’s unique anatomic components and physiologic coping mechanisms are not yet well-developed. Therefore, it is important to keep them from getting overheated; otherwise they may become ill with the following conditions:

HEAT RASH

This is also known as the ‘prickly heat rash’. These are numerous tiny elevated rashes with little red pin-head spots which are extremely irritating and itchy. It commonly grows in the neck region during hot weather and can also spread to the chest and back. Heat rash is caused by retention of sweat due to plugging of the sweat pores.

What to do? Heat rash can be best managed by bathing your child with tepid water and dressing your baby lightly. Occasionally, apply a baby powder very lightly especially in the neck region to keep it dry.

DEHYDRATION

Infants have considerably high amount of water in the body. Compared to adults, they must consume much larger amounts of water per unit of body weight. The daily consumption of fluid by the healthy infant is 10 to 15% of his body weight, whereas it is only 2 to 4% in adults. Apart from that, the natural food of an infant is high in water content.

Yet, this body water can easily get lost from the infant in the form of diarrhea, vomiting and perspiration. Even without an illness, the baby can lose a significant amount of fluid through sweating when they are exposed to hot weather, enough to cause them to become acutely dehydrated.

What to do? Dehydrated babies should be given lots of extra drinks to replace the lost water and electrolytes. This should promptly be instituted by preferably using pediatric rehydrating solutions (e.g. pedialyte) to prevent serious complications of shock, seizure, and coma. If the baby refuses to drink or the water replacement therapy is taking too long, bring the baby immediately to the hospital.

HEAT STROKE

This is a very severe and potentially life-threatening condition. This happens when the baby is exposed to too much heat or in a prolonged period of time, causing the baby to lose too much body water, making him lose his ability to sweat (the body’s way of cooling down). When he loses his ability to sweat, the baby’s body temperature becomes severely elevated, causing damage to the body organs.

What to do? Babies suffering from heat stroke show signs of severe dehydration with very high temperature. The baby should be brought to the hospital at once. Meanwhile, cover your baby with cool damp clothes and keep trying to give your baby drinks unless he is unconscious or not able to swallow safely.

There are many practical ways to prevent such consequences from happening. During hot days, it is helpful to give your baby a tepid bath, dress him lightly, and place him in the coolest part of the house with a fan going but not pointing directly to the baby. Babies may also need extra drinks of milk or small drinks of cool boiled water. Furthermore, avoid traveling your baby during hot weather. If you need to travel, make certain that your baby has been shaded in the car and never leave him alone. A baby’s skin is still thin and can burn from the sunlight which has passed through car windows.