by Carles Cavazos Brito
The chilly winds and spring thaw have made way for balmy summer weather. The great outdoors are shouting out your name, loudly!
You're ready to introduce your baby to the wonders of summer -- splashes in the pool, the huge "sand box" at the beach and family gatherings.
Along with opportunities to explore a new-to-them world, small children face unique safety hazards. We've put together a list of baby-specific seasonal concerns and gathered precautions to help you and your baby safely enjoy the summertime.
Summer Safety Tips for Babies
In the time it takes you to rush in the house and grab your phone off the charger, your baby could drown in just a few inches of water. Take these precautions when your baby is going swimming.
• Any time you're in the pool, stay in arm's reach of your baby, providing "touch supervision."
• Floaties can be fun for older kids, but dangerous for babies. Never rely on a ring like the one in the picture to protect your child.
• Use approved life vests when boating.
Being too hot bothers everyone, but unlike adults, your baby can't do much to cool off. Young children's temperature-regulating systems aren't functioning at full capacity yet.
Watch your baby for these warning signs of dehydration:
- Dry mouth or tongue
- Not many tears when crying
- Less than six wet diapers a day
- Dark colored or smelly urine
- Sunken eyes, cheeks or "soft spots"
- Mottled skin that feels cool to the touch
- High fever
If you think you're baby might be dehydrated, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you offer water or an electrolyte-replacement solution like Pedialyte®. Call your doctor immediately.
In the house: Dress your baby in loose, breathable natural-fiber clothing. According to the CDC, air conditioning offers the best protection against heat-related illness. Fan help a little, but since young kids don't sweat much, your baby won't cool effectively in the moving air.
As the temperatures climb, turn on the AC. If your home isn't air conditioned, spend the afternoon at a friend's, the shopping mall, public library, or a heat-relief shelter. Fans can help a bit, but when the temperature soars into the 90s, fans cannot prevent heat exhaustion and stroke.
In the car: Even with air conditioning, your baby can get too hot in the car. The fabric and padding in car seats doesn't allow for much air movement. A baby who is rear-facing may not get the cool air from the vents. Try to travel during the cooler times of day. If you must head out during the heat, use a sunscreen and stop frequently to make sure your baby isn't too hot.
Cars can heat up rapidly to dangerous levels in just a few minutes, even with the windows cracked and in moderate weather. Always take your baby out of the car when you're running errands. This seems like common sense, but we hear about this in the news all the time.
Cool pool: A little water and some plastic cups turn your bathtub into an indoor, sun-free pool. If your baby isn't big enough to sit up by themselves yet, hop in and join the fun.
The AAP recommends that babies younger than 6 months be kept out of direct sunlight and should avoid wearing sunscreen unless shade or protective clothing is unavailable.
How can your protect your newborn from the sun? Choose lightweight clothing that covers arms and legs. Add a brimmed hat to protect the face and neck from the screen. Move into the shade, under a tree or umbrella. Use sunshades in the car or on the stroller.
Older babies can use sunscreen, shade, protective clothing or a combination to avoid sun damage. Reapply sunscreen regularly. If your baby's had a dunk in the pool, add another coat of sunscreen. Offer water or juice during the break.
As you pick out a pair of infant sunglasses, check that they block UV light. Otherwise, your baby's pupils dilate in the shade and the sensitive retina receives more exposure to harmful UV light. A better option is to move to the shade and enjoy those adorable sunglasses, safely.
The American Academy of Pediatrics discourages giving water to babies less than six months old, even in hot weather. You can expect your baby to nurse more frequently in the heat. Doctors of babies who drink formula may offer individualized suggestions.
Babies over six months old can sip on small amounts of water and have bites of to juicy fruits to help stay hydrated.
What other things do you think should be included in this list? Let us know what it is and what you did to prevent injury.