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BIRMINGHAM (ALA.) — I was walking in the park this week and noticed many mothers pushing strollers with nothing unusual. To protect their baby from the intense sun, it is common to see strollers covered with a blanket. This one thing can lead to heat exhaustion and child overheating.

Here are the facts. The most important thing to keep a baby or young child cool during the summer heat is air flow. The baby could become a heater inside if the covering it is used to protect from the sun is not made of a special, breathable fabric. It is not safe to leave your child in a hot car.

Today, the air temperature was 91° when I prepared this demonstration. I placed the thermometer in my child’s stroller and covered it with a blanket of light color. Within only 2 minutes the temperature jumped from 91° to 93°. Within one hour the temperature spiked at 108° where my child would sit.

Children can also experience heat exhaustion quickly, as their bodies are not capable of regulating temperature as well as adults. They also don’t sweat as often. Nature’s way to cool us off is through sweat. If your child begins to get pink cheeks and shows signs of dehydration, their breathing becomes slower, or they become lethargic these could all be signs your body is trying to cool off.

This does not mean you can’t enjoy the great outdoors the rest of the summer. Just keep in mind these guidelines to help protect your child on hot days.

1. Keep your babies hydrated. This includes outside activities. 2. Your children should wear loose fitting clothes. This allows air flow and allows heat to wick from the skin of the child’s skin better. Peak heating should be avoided during peak hours. This is usually between 1pm and 4pm. 4. Keep moving outdoors. The stroller sitting in the sun is also baking in the heat. As you walk, the stroller not only moves from sun to shade but also generates airflow to keep your child cool. 5. Avoid blankets covering your stroller. Use breathable covers that are specifically designed for outdoor use to promote airflow.

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