While winter can be a magical season, full of wonders for your sweet munchkin to explore, it can also be a source of confusion and stress for new parents. Babies cannot regulate their own body heat and need help from their mommies and daddies to keep snuggly and warm, but too much of a good thing can be bad, and in this case – dangerous.
The dangers of overheating
The scope of negative effects of overheating on babies’ health is wide. Little ones can experience a heat rash in the form of little red dots in the skin folds, on the neck and bottom, dehydration, heat exhaustion or stroke exhibited by heavy sweating, rapid or weak heartbeat, and very hot or cold clammy skin. The greatest risk to babies in winter is SIDS (sudden infant death syndrome), which is significantly increased in this season due to parents’ worrying their little one might be cold.
Normal baby temperature
Babies’ regular temperature reading is around 97.5°F, but it may vary depending on the time of day, what they are wearing, and the method of temperature taking. A temperature of 100.4°F or above is considered a fever and can be dangerous, especially if your baby is less than 3 months old. Fevers and overheating both cause an increase in body temperature, so it can be difficult to figure out which is which. If you’re in doubt, always call your baby physician for advice.
- Warm, flushed, or red skin (even if not sweaty)
- Elevated heartbeat rate
- Lethargic, dizzy, confused, or unresponsive behavior
- Nausea and/or vomiting
Ideal indoor temperature for babies
Your precious one’s room should be kept between 68 and 72°F, and perhaps even slightly under (65-68°F) at night. Choose breathable sleepsuit materials, such as bamboo or organic cotton, and avoid loose blankets in the crib. Put a thermometer in the room to make sure the temperature is optimal, and monitor your baby for signs of overheating.
It’s very important for the little angel to get some fresh air, and it will do mommy and daddy good too! Keep in mind that temperatures around freezing or slightly below are fine if you keep the outings short (15 minutes or less) and your bundle warm. If the temperature falls below 20°F, avoid going out with your little one.
A good rule of thumb is to put one extra layer of clothing on your munchkin on top of what you would feel comfortably warm in. Be sure to remove a layer when in the car (the jacket or coat, as it also poses a safety risk in the event of a crash), or if you step inside a heated space to avoid overheating. Wearing your baby in a carrier can also be a nice way to keep them warm, but in that case, the extra layers will not be necessary. Check your little one often for any signs of discomfort.
When overheating occurs
If your baby is exhibiting signs of overheating, here are a few steps you can take:
- Ventilate the room or take your baby to a cooler one
- Hydrate your baby with fluids – formula or breastfeeding will do
- Change your baby into dry, looser and lighter clothing
- Give your baby a lukewarm bath or a cool compress
If these are not working, contact your pediatrician immediately for advice and assistance.