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Summer is a whole new experience for a baby: they get to experience swimming, hiking, and traveling with the family. Outdoor play is essential for babies to expand their world, but keeping them safe and comfortable in the summer does require a little extra planning.

Babies are more sensitive to the summer heat, so warm weather activities adults take for granted come with additional risks and challenges for them. Parents can avoid many problems by following a few key tips for summer safety.

Look for Shade

Babies under 6 months old should be kept out of direct sunlight. Though it varies by ethnicity, babies have less melanin, the pigment that protects them from the sun. Older babies should still stay in the shade during the sunniest hours of the day. A parasol, sturdy tree, or wide-brim hat gives natural protection from the sun without any chemicals or irritants.

mother looking at her baby on a stroller

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Apply Sunscreen Carefully

Sunscreen provides a second layer of protection. Choose a broad-spectrum sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30. Some brands offer sunscreen formulas specifically for babies.

Try to apply sunscreen at least 30 minutes before outdoor time. Cover any skin that could be exposed to direct sunlight, including ears and the tops of feet. Reapply at least every two hours. If babies are playing in the water, they will need their sunscreen reapplied more frequently.

mother applying cream to baby's face

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Monitor Hydration

Babies cannot regulate their body temperature, so they need plenty of fluids during the summer months.

Before 6 months, babies should only be drinking breast milk or formula. Parents should offer milk more frequently than usual during hot days outdoors, even when the baby doesn't seem thirsty. Older babies can have water in addition to formula.

baby drinking milk from bottle twinsterphoto / Getty Images

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Watch for Signs of Heat Illness

Heat-related illnesses come on suddenly. If a baby looks pale, cries as though they are in pain, or seems lethargic or irritable, they need to be cooled down and rehydrated. Seizures, fast breathing, and unconsciousness are all signs of heat stroke.

For any of these symptoms, parents should call emergency services and cool the baby with air-conditioning, cool cloths, and fans until help arrives.

father holding crying baby

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Dress the Baby Comfortably

Wide-brim hats are essential summer wear for a baby. Long cotton pants or long-sleeved linen shirts protect their sensitive skin while keeping them comfortable in the summer heat. Light blankets can cover their feet. Strollers should be outfitted with a canopy or parasol to provide as much shade as possible.

Young girl child wearing wide brimmed hat while playing outside smiling and happy. Christie Cooper / Getty Images

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Practice Car Safety

When planning a long road trip with a baby, factor in breaks every two to four hours. Babies should never be changed or breastfed in a moving car. It can help to have an adult or older child in the back seat with the baby to handle any minor needs.

Never leave a baby in the car alone. Cars can heat up rapidly, even with the windows cracked. A smart way to remember that your child is with you today is to place their teddy bear on the dashboard.

baby in a car seat with his father AleksandarNakic / Getty Images

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Mind Elevation When Hiking or Camping

Family hikes or camping trips can be great fun during the summer months. Mountain peaks over 2500 feet high, however, may not be the place for babies. Higher altitudes get cold, even during the summer.

Babies are at risk of hypothermia, may struggle to breathe in the thinner air, and can develop headaches from the change in air pressure. When hiking up a mountain, parents may need to move slower while the baby adjusts to the altitude.

mother and baby in sling hiking Oleg Breslavtsev / Getty Images

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Carefully Clear Outdoor Spaces

Playgrounds and campsites have debris that babies might play with or try to put in their mouths . Cigarette butts, matches, bottles, garbage, sticks, leaves, and sharp rocks all pose a risk.

Before setting up a tent or laying down a picnic blanket, scan the area. Clear out plenty of space for the baby to lie down and to explore. A determined infant can get further than adults expect if something catches their eye.

Baby girl crawling on blanket in a park on summer day DekiArt / Getty Images

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Bring Baby-Safe Equipment

It's not safe for babies to sleep in a car seat or in plush hotel bedding; they need a portable bassinet or crib. While camping, pack extra clothing for keeping warm at night, a rain suit, a portable high chair, and their stroller.

Consider using any new gear at home before the trip. A living room camping trip in the tent, meals in the portable high chair, or a quick sprinkler crawl in the rain suit might help baby feel more comfortable out in the wilderness, and it lets parents test out the items for deficiencies.

baby on a portable high chair by a picnic table outdoors Copyright Morten Falch Sortland / Getty Images

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Guard Against Drowning

Drowning is the number one non-natural cause of death for children between one and four years old. Babies should always wear flotation devices near water, and they should never be left unattended.

If the family will be spending time in natural bodies of water, like a beach or lake, research the unique hazards in that area. Consider a baby swim class. Even young babies can learn to float in an emergency.

Baby with inflatable armbands in swimming pool.

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This site offers information designed for educational purposes only. You should not rely on any information on this site as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, treatment, or as a substitute for, professional counseling care, advice, diagnosis, or treatment. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.