Is It Too Hot For My Baby To Go Outdoors?

Is It Too Hot For My Baby To Go OutdoorsWith temperatures reaching the mid 80s this afternoon we were concerned it was too hot for our baby to go outdoors. However, since today, April 16, is Patriot’s Day, we wanted to take Arya outside to experience her first Boston Marathon.

We assumed using our system for protecting her from the sun and staying in the shade would be sufficient even during a hot day, but after needing to take a short break in an air conditioned building since Arya was getting hot, I decided to better understand when it is too hot for my baby to go outdoors.

Child Care Weather Watch

The most often cited resource to determine whether it is too hot for my baby to go outdoors is the “Child Care Weather Watch” [pdf] table produced by the Iowa Department of Public Health, Healthy Child Care Iowa campaign. The table, which is reproduced below, was funded by two federal grants (MCJ19T029 and MCJ19KCC7) from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Health Resources and Services Administration, Maternal and Child Health Bureau.
Is It Too Hot For My Baby to Go Outdoors - Child Care Weather Watch page1
Is It Too Hot For My Baby to Go Outdoors - Child Care Weather Watch page2

Neither the Iowa Department of Public Health website nor the funding entity provide methodology, data, or additional information about the table. A search of the two grant ID numbers: MCJ19T029 and MCJ19KCC7 produces thousands of results reproducing this chart, but no additional information about the grant or results.

Additional Research Regarding
When It Is Too Hot For My Baby To Go Outdoors

The most heavily cited peer-reviewed research on the topic comes from a paper published in 1970 [pdf]. The paper does not provide a formula to easily validate the results of the Iowa DPH table, but figure 4 (p.331) does allow me estimate the optimal air temperature for my baby.

The authors are focused on the optimal temperature for caring for low-weight, premature newborns. There is no direct analysis for a normal baby of regular birth weight. However, if a given temperature is tolerable for a low-weight premature newborn, then that temperature should be acceptable for a normal baby.

The lower bound of the temperature interval for 30 day old babies with a birth weight of 4.4 pounds is just under 90 degrees Fahrenheit in 50 percent humidity.

The American Academy of Pediatrics releases guidelines for winter safety including recommendations for the number of layers of clothing a baby should wear, but its summer guidelines [pdf] simply admonish parents to:

“know the symptoms of heat illness and watch for them in your child.”

The AAP guidelines for heat illness are comprehensive, but are difficult to identify in newborn babies. The most relevant recommendations are to watch for changes in skin color, high internal body temperature above 100 degrees Fahrenheit, and excessive sweating.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency provides a more comprehensive list of ways to care for an infant during hot weather:

  • Check your baby’s diaper for concentrated urine, which can be a sign of dehydration.
  • If your infant is sweating, he or she is too warm. Remove him or her from the sun immediately and find a place for the baby to cool down.
  • Avoid using a fan on or near your baby; it dehydrates them faster.
  • A hat traps an infant’s body heat and should only be worn in the sun to avoid sunburn.
  • Never leave an infant in a parked car, even if the windows are open.
My Personal Conclusion Regarding
When It Is Too Hot For My Baby To Go Outdoors

Despite limited external data and the absence of detailed methodology, the Iowa DPH Child Care Weather Watch table seems to be the best resource for determining when the temperature is too extreme to take our baby outdoors. Humidity is also an important variable with higher humidity being more dangerous for babies.

With the low (35 percent) humidity today, a high of 84 degrees Fahrenheit, and our constant attempt to keep her stroller in the shade, Arya was in no danger of heat stroke. Once temperatures get beyond the high 80s this summer we may have to take additional precautions.

Is It Too Hot For My Baby To Go Outdoors - Stroller

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