Babies in hot weather
If you think your baby is suffering from the heat — that is, they look unwell, are refusing to drink, have a lot fewer wet nappies than usual or are vomiting — see a doctor or call healthdirect to speak to a registered nurse on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria).
Caring for a baby in hot weather can be challenging and it's common for parents to feel concerned if their baby is too hot and perhaps overheating. Healthy babies, who are thriving and well hydrated, generally have no problems regulating their body temperature unless they become overheated.
What are the effects of hot weather on babies?
When the weather is very hot, it's harder for babies and children to maintain a comfortable body temperature. A child's body temperature rises faster than an adult's and they can be affected quickly by the impact of heat on their body. They are also more at risk than adults of becoming overheated and being affected by a heat-related illness.
Babies and young children cannot adjust to temperature changes as efficiently as adults do. Another big difference is that babies and young children don't sweat as much as adults, which reduces their ability to cool down.
Babies are prone to developing heat rash or prickly heat because their sweat glands are not fully developed. Use a soap-free wash when bathing your baby and dress them in light cotton clothing.
How can my baby maintain their body temperature?
Dress your baby comfortably in light, loose clothing and avoid overdressing them. If your baby is outside, make sure they are wearing a broad brimmed hat which casts a shade over their head, face, neck and chest. Stay inside on very hot days. If you need to go out, keep outings short and try to stay in the shade.
Offer your baby extra breastfeeds or formula to drink if they are younger than 6 months. On very hot days, babies aged over 6 months can be offered small amount of cooled boiled water in-between their milk feeds.
Bath your baby as often as you feel you need to. Ideally, the temperature of the bath water needs to be lukewarm, rather than cold.
Never leave your baby in a car, even for a short time. The temperature in a parked car can quickly climb to dangerous levels.
How do I tell if my baby is too hot?
Place your hand on your baby's chest or back and feel their body temperature. This will give you a better idea than just feeling their hands or feet of how hot they are. Generally, a baby's extremities feel cooler than their body.
What could happen if my baby overheats?
Babies who feel hot and overheat are generally unsettled. Like the adults who care for them, when a baby is hot they look and feel uncomfortable. If their temperature stays high, they are at risk of becoming dehydrated or heat affected. Babies who are affected by heat stress feel overly warm to touch, can be irritable, look unwell, be floppy and their skin is drier.
If you think your baby has overheated, take them inside and remove their clothing. Give them a bath and offer a feed.
What are the signs of dehydration?
Depending on a child's age, they can show different signs of dehydration, though common signs are:
- being very thirsty
- having fewer wet nappies
- being tired with little energy
- looking pale with sunken eyes
- having fewer tears when crying
- being irritable and unsettled
- breathing quickly
Take your baby to be seen by a doctor if you think they may be dehydrated.
How can I protect my baby during hot weather?
Try to stay indoors with your baby during the hottest part of the day and plan outings which are inside and protected. Check the weather information and forecast on your state or territory's meteorological website. Download the Sunsmart app on your phone; this will help guide you in when you and your baby need sun protection.
It's not always possible to avoid being out in hot weather, and it's important to follow sun protection guidelines.
When dressing your baby, make sure they are not overdressed. Try to stay inside, or in shady areas if you need to be outside.
Keeping your baby cool
How to keep your baby cool in hot weather.
How do I protect my baby in the sun?
Try to avoid being outside in the sun, especially on very hot days. If you do need to go out, make sure your baby's skin is covered in clothing which has a UPF (ultraviolet protection factor) rating. The higher the UPF rating, the more protective the clothing will be against solar UV rays.
Use sunblock and sun protection on your baby's exposed skin if you cannot avoid being outside. Avoid regular use of sunscreen if your baby is under 6 months.
What about a heatwave? Should I take my baby out in hot weather?
All of us need to stay indoors when there is a heatwave. Use air-conditioning to keep the temperature at a more comfortable level. Make sure your baby is well hydrated and offer extra feeds. Cooling baths and wet washers against their skin can also be helpful.
How do I keep my baby cool when they are sleeping?
Think about moving your baby to a cooler room in the house to sleep. It's fine to use a fan and/or air-conditioning in your baby's room, though avoid the cool air blowing directly onto them. Make up their cot according to the safe sleeping guidelines and use cotton sheets. Dress your baby lightly or in just a nappy to keep them cool. Always place your baby on their back to sleep and make sure their head is uncovered.
Use curtains or blinds to block out direct sunlight and where practical, keep windows open to maintain air-flow. Position your baby's cot in a room which is cool and well ventilated. Use air-conditioning or a fan if you are in a hot climate.
Make sure your baby has plenty of air-flow if they're in their pram when the weather is hot. Use a lightweight cover which will allow air to circulate. Always supervise your baby when they are sleeping in their pram.
Expect your baby's sleep patterns to change when the weather is hot. They may be sleepier in the hotter parts of the day, and have bursts of energy when it cools down.
Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.
Last reviewed: October 2021