Most parents are very aware of the dangers of leaving a child in a car with the windows rolled up — heat builds up quickly to potentially fatal levels. The same principle applies to a child’s stroller and the simple addition of a blanket overtop in the summer heat. In 2011, Swedish researchers discovered that placing even a thin cover over a child in stroller on a warm day can lead to heatstroke, SIDS, or other such dangers.
“It’s a similar type of situation to a locked car, where the temperature goes up much higher than the outdoor temperature,” Dr. Joseph Gigante, a pediatrician and professor of pediatrics at Vanderbilt Children’s Hospital with more than 30 years of experience tells Fatherly. “If you put the cover on them, there’s not going to be any flow of air, and the air in there is going to continue to go higher.”
The mistake, Dr. Gigante says, stems from both ignorance and the healthy desire to shelter and shade a child — and its evidence of good intentions and poor execution when it comes to best stroller practices in the warmer months. Dr. Gigante broke down this and some other common stroller dangers parents make — and how to safely solve them.
Covering a Baby with a Blanket
It may sound obvious but it’s important to discuss regardless. When direct sun bares down, it’s tempting to throw a light blanket or wrap overtop of the pram. But that needs to be avoided. In fact, the Swedish research referenced above revealed that, left in the heat, the temperature inside a stroller was 72 degrees. Covered in a thin cloth, however, it reached 93 degrees within 30 minutes; after an hour in the sun, it was nearly 100 degrees. “It gets extremely hot down in the [stroller], something like a thermos,” the Swedish pediatrician Svante Norgren told the country’s Svenska Dagbladet in 2017. If heat becomes a concern, it’s best, per Gigante, to simply move into the shade. “Be under a tree or find some natural shade,” Dr. Gigante says, “so they’re not in direct sunlight.”
Dressing Babies the Wrong Fabrics
Thick weaves are of course great for the winter, but should not be used during the warmer months. Instead, look for fabrics like linen, cotton, and breathable synthetics are better for the warmer months. “Keep as much of their body covered with some light clothing,” Dr. Gigante says. On very hot days, parents should also consider ditching their child’s socks. Babies only sweat from their neck, hands, feet, and head. Due to this, they can become overheated very quickly. Socks limit baby sweat.
Not Using the Proper Accessories
We all chuckle at the cute kid in the oversized sunglasses. But Dr. Gigante does not. The sun beats down on strollers. Direct accessories like a breathable hat and sunglasses should be baby must-wears after your son or daughter’s apparel is squared away, he says, as the sun can be
Going out in Peak Sun Hours
On very hot days, parents need to be cautious of when exactly they take their baby in stroller. Whenever possible, it’s important to avoid going outdoors from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m., when sun is at its most severe. Any time after that, the sun is less intense and children will be safer. “If there is exposure to the sun, it’s less intense,” Dr. Gigante says of off-peak hours.
Not Applying Sunscreen
The official U.S. Food and Drug Administration’s stance) is that sunblock should only be applied to children six months of age or older. According to Dr. Gigante, that’s nonsense: “If you’re going out and if they absolutely have to be in the sun,” he says —“if” being the operative word — “a small amount is okay .” Gigante explains that an infant’s skin is so thin that he or she is at an increased risk of developing sunburn when compared to an adult or even a toddler.