Top doc’s urgent pram warning: this heat can kill
BABIES and toddlers are being put at risk in prams heating to killer temperatures as parents cover up to shield them from the sun.
In a shock warning to parents, one of Queensland's most senior children's doctors has revealed prams can soar to temperatures well above the outside air, with the 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 15C over the environmental temperature," warned Dr David Levitt, Queensland Children's Hospital director of paediatric medicine.
"The combination of no airflow, heavier clothes and the babies' poorer temperature regulation lead to potential heat injury which can be life-threatening."
Queensland Health is now advising parents to keep their littlies out of the sun between 11am and 5pm.
Kidsafe chief Susan Teerds fears it could take a death before parents take heed of the danger of the Queensland sun and prams with thick covers.
Like leaving a child in a locked car, Mrs Teerds said, modern prams - particularly click-in baby capsule-cum-prams - could heat up rapidly.
Thick hoods or cloths used to protect kids from UV rays could increase the potential for tragedy. Mrs Teerds said parents may think a baby was happy and sleeping but it could be slipping into a deadly heat coma.
The Sunday Mail was told beach lifeguards regularly saw prams with children left unattended in the blazing heat.
But the danger extends to parks or even taking babies out in prams to settle them.
Tests by The Sunday Mail, using a thermometer in empty prams, recorded temperatures surging by up to 10C - reaching 40C - in less time than a baby would take for a nap.
"Using a canopy to shade the baby allows airflow, which cools the baby, but it is best to stay in the shade," Dr Levitt said. "Children overheat and dehydrate quickly."
Heat exhaustion and dehydration in children cuts blood flow to the brain and organs and can cause flushing, increased heart rate, sweating, weakness, cramps, headaches, nausea and vomiting, he said.
Heat stroke, which is the next phase of heat exhaustion, means the core temperature of the body has risen and can lead to damaged organs.
Gold Coast mum Nicole De Valter was shocked that the temperature in her daughter Indiana's pram soared by 10C in just 20 minutes during a family outing at the Broadwater Parklands yesterday. With the outside temperature at 30C at 10.15am, the empty pram hit 40C by 10.35am.
"It's definitely surprised me," Ms De Valter said. "It's definitely something I'm mindful of, but I'll probably be even more mindful of it now."
Brisbane's Aileen Burns said she was conscious of the summer heat and her five-month-old daughter Hilma's welfare was the No.1 priority.
"I don't go out in the heat of the day, always walk on the shady side of the street and make sure the pram is well ventilated and that she's never in direct sunlight," she said.
Ms Burns said she took extra precautions to protect Hilma, including buying a clip-on fan accessory for her pram.
"There is a midwife who does a once-a-week session at the pharmacy in New Farm, so when it first started getting hot I made sure I asked her what Hilma should wear and how to keep her cool in the pram," she said. "She told me to dress her in cool clothes and have a water spritzer."
KEEP YOUR COOL
■ Avoid going out between 11am and 5pm and cover up.
- ■ Dress your child in light clothing, always use a hat outside and stay in the shade.
- ■ Keep airconditioning cooling at 24C.
- ■ Use fans and put children to sleep in the coolest room.
- ■ Use lukewarm water for baths, not ice-cold water.
- ■ Never leave children in cars, even briefly.
■ Only cover prams with light covers that allow airflow.
Additional reporting by Jeremy Pierce, Cloe Read and Sophie Chirgwin