Heat stress warning issued by Telethon Kids Institute as Australian summer warms
Children are more vulnerable in hot weather, and extra care must be taken to prevent heat-related illnesses such as heat stress and heat stroke, Co-Director of The ORIGINS Project at Telethon Kids Institute, Professor Desiree Silva has said.
“Babies and young children are very sensitive to high temperatures and can get heat stress quickly. They may not show the early signs and symptoms that occur in adults, they may just look unwell or be more irritable than usual,” the Professor noted.
This ambiguity of symptoms means that it is important for early childhood education and care (ECEC) professionals to be aware of the risks, and watch babies and young children closely to keep them from getting dehydrated or overheated.
“Babies may also seem floppy, irritable, have drier skin, refuse to drink, have fewer wet nappies than usual, or have a lower, sunken soft spot (fontanelle) on the top of their head,” Professor Silva said.
To keep babies and children safe, she recommended following some simple steps this summer.
“When it comes to feeding during hot weather, breastfed babies, including expressed breastmilk-fed, may need extra breastmilk feeds. Formula-fed babies may need small amounts of cool, boiled water in between feeds. This also applies to older babies, especially if the baby is having other foods.
“In terms of sleeping arrangements, choose the coolest place possible. Make sure the air can circulate around the bassinette or cot and remove any liners or padding. If using a fan, do not point it towards the baby or child but use it to circulate air around the room. If using an air conditioner, make sure the room does not get too cold – about 24 °C to 26 °C is low enough.
“Whilst travelling, it’s important to remember the car can heat up to a dangerous temperature very quickly. Capsules should not be covered with a rug or towel to shade from the sun. Instead, consider using a window shield.”
For more information about caring for children and babies in summer, please see here.