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'It's like leaving them in a car.' The dangers of covering your baby's pram with a cloth.

With spring beginning and the weather heating up, it’s natural for parents to want to protect their babies from the harsh sun. But what they’re doing to keep their babies sun-safe could be putting their lives at risk.

Although fairly common practice in our warm climate, covering a baby’s pram with a cloth can actually be dangerous.

“If you’ve got no air flow and you’ve got something heavy on top, the rise in temperature is akin to leaving them in a car,” Kidsafe Queensland’s Susan Teerds tells Mamamia.

“Babies won’t necessarily start crying. They might go very red because they’re overheating, but then they very quickly can just pass away.”

“Babies can’t regulate their body temperatures. They rely on us – they’re defenceless.”

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Video by MMC

It’s recommended that babies under the age of one not be exposed to direct sunlight in the middle of the day, so it’s unsurprising parents want to keep them safe.

“They’re all worried about the sun, as they should be,” Teerds adds.

Some parents cover their prams with muslin wraps. But this might not be enough to protect their babies from the sun. As Cancer Council Victoria points out, if you can easily see through the fabric, chances are UV can easily pass through it.

On top of that, Swedish research has shown that even light fabric such as muslin can increase the temperature inside a pram.

Heavier coverings, such as towels, blankets and plastic pram covers, offer more protection from the sun but put babies at greater risk of overheating.

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Earlier this year, Queensland Children’s Hospital director of paediatric medicine, Dr David Levitt, warned that babies in covered prams were at risk of organ failure, long-term damage and even death.

“Having a baby in the sun in a pram which is covered leads to a rise in temperature around 15 degrees over the environmental temperature,” Dr Levitt said.

Teerds says she lives near the beach and she sees people covering their babies’ prams all the time.

“They actually put their prams on the beach, with their little babies, in the middle of the day, when we’re all told to keep out of the sun. The beach is like concrete – you get reflected heat – so you’ve got that heat coming up, you’ve got the sun belting down and because they’re covered, they’re not getting any breeze. So you’re setting it up like a slow cooker.”

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Prams should ideally be put in the shade rather than being covered, and they should also have air flow. As Teerds points out, some strollers come with built-in ventilation.

“You need air flow, and don’t cover them with anything that is stifling,” she says.

As well, parents need to regularly check their babies in prams to make sure they’re not overheating.

“You actually need to put your hand on their chest or their back,” Teerds explains. “You’re looking at whether they’re getting sweaty.”

Teerds’ advice is to avoid taking babies out in prams in the middle of the day in hot weather, if at all possible. “Early morning and early evening are great times to go for a walk.”

She says nobody wants their baby to overheat, but most parents don’t realise the potential risks.

“It just doesn’t cross anybody’s minds that the inside of a stroller can heat up.”


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