Childcare Family Health How To

How to care for young children in a heatwave

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Written by Tim Barnes-Clay

Discover the best ways to help your young child during a heatwave.

Many parts of the UK are in the midst of an extraordinary heatwave. Public Health England have warned that babies and young children are most at risk to hot weather, alongside over 65s and those with health conditions. With that in mind, here are a few tips to help your child during the extreme heat.

Symptoms of heat stress

Heat stress can be harder to detect in young children than adults. Signs may include them being more irritable than usual, drier than normal skin, rejecting food or drink, going to the toilet less/less wet nappies than usual, and generally looking unwell. The soft spot on top of your baby’s head (fontanelle) could also be lower than it usually would be.


Your child will probably become more restless at night due to the discomfort of the heat. To ensure your child doesn’t overheat, be wary of your child having a moist head or neck. This is due to sweating. Other signs of overheating could include a redder face than usual, a rash or rapid breathing.

Eating and drinking

If your child is breastfeeding, it is likely they will need more breastfeeds than usual. If they are bottle fed, it can help to have extra formula or small amounts of cooled boiled water. If your child has regular drinks, it’s helpful for them to drink water regularly through the day. Sugary and fizzy drinks are better avoided. They could dehydrate them.

Keeping your child cool

During the heat, you should put your cot or bassinette in the coolest room in the house. Use only cotton sheets. If there’s a fan in the room, don’t point it directly at your child. Direct it toward the room’s centre so the air can circulate. Remember to dress your child appropriately for the heat. A room thermometer can give you a better indication of what would clothes would be most suitable. Before sleep, you might find a quick lukewarm bath can refresh your child and relieve clamminess.

Going outside

Public Health England recommend keeping young children out of the sun, especially between 11am and 3pm, the hottest hours of the day. If you have to travel with your child, it’s best to cover the window nearest your child with a shade screen or blanket. Never ever leave your child alone in a car during the extreme heat.