Written by Sahana Charan and published on 04 June 2021.
Have you ever contemplated the effect of air conditioners and coolers on your little one? Read on to know if it is safe or not
When the scorching sun beats down on us during the summer months, there is rarely any respite from the heat and humidity. In most cases, people install cooling systems in their homes to beat the heat and stay comfortable.
But what about small children? They too feel the heat and need to cool off. But, most parents mull over the safety of air conditioners (ACs)/air coolers. They worry that constant exposure to cool air may have adverse effects on the health of their little ones. This is especially true of parents of newborns and infants.
According to guidelines issued under the maternal and child health program of the World Health Organization (WHO), "Thermal control comprises the implementation of the procedures needed to achieve and maintain a normal body temperature for the newborn, whether the need is to keep infants warm or to cool them down if the body temperature exceeds 37.5C (99.5F). Thermal or heat control considerations are a high priority when planning for the care of the newborn. This is true for full-term infants but is of critical importance for preterm and low birth weight infants, because of the increased risk of illness and death - proper measurement of body temperature is important in the assessing an infant's heat balance."
Ideally, the room temperature should be maintained at a steady 24 -26°C - Dr Santosh Kumar"Newborns with a low birth weight are at risk of hypothermia (a drop in body temperature to dangerous levels), which in turn can cause blood sugar levels to drop and affect metabolic activity. Therefore, parents must take extra care to see that such babies do not become too cold. A baby weighing less than 2.5 kg should be wrapped well, with the head, hands and feet kept warm all through the day," says Dr Santosh Kumar, Consultant, Paediatrics and Neonatology, Motherhood Hospitals, Bengaluru.
On the other hand, excessive sweating can cause dehydration in babies, so an air-conditioned room can help in keeping the little one cozy and relaxed.
"Dress your baby in light and airy clothes in the daytime, while at night, the head and limbs should be covered with a wrap preventing direct contact with the cold air. It is a good idea to check your baby's temperature from time to time by touching her forehead, hands and feet. Keeping a low-reading thermometer handy will help. Anything below 34°C needs immediate attention," adds Dr Santosh.
A low-reading thermometer should be used for all measurements. An ordinary thermometer only reads down to 35C/95F and will not detect significant hypothermia, low-reading infant thermometers go down to 25C/77F.
Santosh also recommends that parents (either the mother or father) give Kangaroo care (skin-to-skin contact) to a newborn from time to time as this will help her keep warm even in a cooled room, especially at night time.
In a tropical climate, overheating and sweating during the summer months can cause dehydration in babies. While it is necessary to keep infants warm so that their body temperature stays normal, it is also imperative to keep them cool and comfortable in summer so they do not lose water content from their bodies. Medical experts say that having an AC or air cooler in a baby's room is absolutely fine, as long as parents take necessary precautions.
It is a good idea to check your baby's temperature from time to time by touching her forehead, hands and feet. - Dr Santosh Kumar
There is no harm in using an air conditioner or air cooler for your baby in hot climatic conditions but parents need to keep safety measures in mind. Ideally, the room temperature should be maintained at a steady 24 -26°C.
Using an air cooler or air-conditioning system in the hot and humid months will keep babies safe from the heat and help them sleep well during the night. Parents should, however, exercise care and caution to ensure that it does not cause discomfort to the little ones or bring them any harm.