From family picnics to vacations to pool parties, summer is full of fun. It can also get pretty hot and sticky depending on where you live, so you might worry about keeping your baby cool as the temperatures climb.
Overheating doesn’t just make your little one uncomfortable. During sleep it can also increase their risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS) and other concerns, like heat rash.
Here’s how to spot overheating in your baby, plus tips to keep cool in summer (and winter) and signs that should prompt you to visit your child’s pediatrician.
Use your senses when evaluating whether your baby is overheating. Touch their skin and look for redness in their face as well as signs of discomfort or distress.
Keep in mind that some signs of overheating overlap with symptoms of fever or dehydration in your baby. Since young infants may not sweat much in general, your little one may be overheated from their environment without appearing to sweat.
To help you figure out whether baby is overheating, pay attention to whether your little one:
- feels hot (with or without a fever).
- looks flushed or red
- is sweating or has damp hair (though keep in mind that babies can be overheated without sweating)
- acts fussy or restless
- has an elevated heart rate (tachycardia)
- seems overly tired, sluggish, or listless
- appears confused, weak, or dizzy
- feels nauseous or is vomiting
A standard temperature reading for babies is around 97.5°F (36.4°C). Your baby’s temperature can vary depending on:
- the time of the day
- what they’re wearing
- how you take their temperature (in the rectum versus on the forehead)
Unlike adults, babies have trouble regulating their body temperature. So, a reading of 100.4°F (38°C) or above is considered a fever and is particularly concerning in babies under 3 months old.
Keep in mind that overheating and a fever are two different things, though both cause an increase in body temperature.
Ideally, you’ll want to keep your baby’s room temperature to between 68 and 72°F (20 and 22°C) and no higher than 75°F (23.8°C). This temperature range is appropriate in both winter and summer.
When dressing your baby, consider how you might dress yourself to be comfortable while sleeping. Too many layers, even in the winter, can lead to baby overheating in their sleep.
Your house thermostat may not give an accurate reading for the room your child sleeps in, so you might consider using a baby monitor that measures room temperature.
In hot weather
Of course, it can be difficult to maintain ideal temperatures during a heat wave or when you’re outdoors during the summer months. Here are some ways you can keep baby cool:
- Lower your baby’s room temperature to below 75°F (23.8°C). If you don’t have air conditioning, you may use a fan — but don’t point it directly on your baby at full blast. Instead, use an oscillating (moving back-and-forth) feature or point it so it circulates air around the room.
- Keep your baby out of direct sunlight, especially at the peak hours of the day, which are 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. The same applies to sun exposure under windows, which may make the heat more intense.
- If you can’t get the room cool enough, try temporarily moving your baby’s sleep space to a cooler spot in the house. Otherwise, close any curtains to keep out as much heat as possible and dress your baby in fewer layers.
- Consider taking breaks from your home during heat waves if you don’t have air conditioning. You can visit stores, the library, or cooling centers set up by your community if you need a break from the heat.
- Don’t leave your baby inside your vehicle unattended. Even on mild days, heat builds quickly inside cars and can lead to concerns beyond overheating, including heat stroke and even death.
In cold weather
Even well-meaning parents may bundle their babies too much in cold weather. Overheating from too many blankets or clothes in the winter months is one of the leading risk factors for SIDS, according to
Here are a few tips:
- Dress your baby as you would dress yourself for the temperature of the room. At most, add only one more layer or a blanket or swaddle to keep your baby warm.
- The same goes with traveling in the car. Resist bundling your baby with too many blankets, especially when you have the car’s heat running. You should also remove your baby’s jacket before putting them in a car seat. Riding in a car seat in a winter coat can make the car seat less effective if you’re in an accident.
- Ditch the extra blankets and comforters inside the crib. They may contribute to overheating and pose suffocation risks.
- Don’t bump the heat up any higher than 72°F (22°C).
- Avoid having your baby sleep too close to heating vents, portable heaters, or fireplaces.
You can take some steps to help cool down your baby at home, including:
- Move your baby to a cooler space in your home.
- Remove excess layers of clothing and replace with loose-fitting, dry clothing.
- Give your baby a tepid or lukewarm bath, or place a cool washcloth on their skin.
- Breastfeed or give baby extra formula feeds for hydration.
Just be sure to monitor your child’s temperature and watch for other signs of more serious heat-related illness that may warrant medical attention.
Babies who become overheated may risk other health concerns that need prompt attention. At very least, overheating may make your child lose sleep because they’re uncomfortable.
Other risks include:
- Heat rash. Also called prickly heat, this rash is especially common in babies who are overheated. It looks like tiny red bumps in your baby’s skin folds, around the neck, and on their bottom.
- Heat exhaustion or heat stroke. Your baby may sweat heavily, have a rapid or weak pulse, or have very hot or cold, clammy skin. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are true emergencies. If your child is vomiting or passes out, call 911 right away.
- Dehydration. When your child’s body temperature is elevated, they may sweat excessively and lose fluids and electrolytes, leading to dehydration. Symptoms include lack of tears, decrease in wet diapers, and lethargy.
- SIDS. Along with placing your infant on their back to sleep, you should also pay attention to how you dress them for naps and nighttime rest. Too many layers of clothing, swaddles, or blankets may raise your baby’s body temperature and put them at risk of infant sleep death.
It can be hard to tell if your baby is overheating or has a fever. When in doubt, call your pediatrician. It’s better to play it safe.
If your child is under 3 months old and has a rectal temperature above 100.4°F (38°C), you should call your baby’s doctor or go to the emergency room as soon as possible. While your little one may be overheated, there are other concerns your doctor may want to screen for, including infection.
Also call your doctor if baby:
- is lethargic or difficult to wake
- is very fussy or irritable
- is vomiting or not eating or drinking as usual
- is inconsolable or won’t stop crying
- has a seizure or is not acting like themself
- has a temperature that won’t go down with measures taken at home
Seek emergency medical help
You should also get medical help immediately if overheating was caused by being left in a hot car or some other overly hot environment.
Bottom line: Call your pediatrician if you have concerns, no matter how small they may seem.
Babies cannot regulate their body temperature as efficiently as older kids and adults.
So, it’s important to pay attention to your little one’s environment and other factors, like how they’re dressed, to ensure comfort and safety.
If you have any other questions about safe sleep or signs of overheating, don’t hesitate to contact your baby’s doctor.