In the summer months when the temperature outside rises, we all seek refuge in the comfort of air-conditioned homes.
But is an air conditioner safe for a newborn?
This is a question every new parent should consider prior to turning on an air conditioner. Babies can’t adapt to temperature as well as adults, which is why skin-to-skin contact (or kangaroo care) is so effective.
Even in the warm months, skin-to-skin with mom (no shirts, and a diaper only for Baby) helps regulate Baby’s temperature.
If Baby’s not skin-to-skin with Mom, Baby “can lose heat rapidly, as much as four times more quickly than adults.” (source) At the same time, Baby can overheat very easily, especially when overbundled or overdressed in the summer.
So is an air conditioner safe for a newborn?
Used judiciously, the short answer is yes.
Helping Baby keep her body temperature normal is important. This is especially crucial during the summer months when the temperature can get very high. According to the American SIDS Institute, overheating can increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome. Therefore, the main benefit of using an air conditioner is the ability to keep baby’s temperature at a normal level.
Recommendations when using an air conditioner
A room temperature between 67°F and 72°F should keep your baby comfortable. Too high or too low isn’t good for your little one.
It is also important to regularly change filters in the air conditioner to keep the air fresh. This helps prevent respiratory diseases that might be triggered by molds and pathogens that can accumulate in the air conditioner over time.
Also be careful where you place Baby in the room when the air conditioner is on.
Avoid the device blowing directly towards your infant. Although this might be the way you like to cool off on hot summer days, your baby is unlikely to appreciate this kind of cooling.
Warnings related to air conditioner usage
If the room temperature gets too low due to the usage of the air conditioner, it may cause hypothermia in an infant.
To check if your baby is too hot or cold, don’t judge by touching Baby’s hands or feet. An infant’s circulation system is not fully developed. Cold hands and feet are quite normal for infants.
Most pediatricians recommend checking the temperature by feeling baby’s neck or chest.
If you notice that your baby is being fussy and you’re unable to soothe him or her with milk or by holding the baby in your arms, check the room temperature. Your baby might be too hot or too cold.
Preparing to go outside
If you’re keeping your home air conditioned and it’s time to go outside, help baby adjust to the outside temperature.
A sudden change in temperature is one of the main drawbacks of air conditioners for infants. Their body can experience shock when faced with a drastic change in temperature.
To prepare Baby for the hot outdoors, turn off your air conditioner for at least 30 minutes before leaving the house. Also, open the windows to allow some warm air to enter the room. Slowly increasing the temperature in your home will help Baby adjust to the outside heat.
Using an air conditioner to cool down a room with a newborn is safe as long as you follow the recommendations and consider the warnings. And next time a new mom asks you, “Is an air conditioner safe for a newborn?” you can answer, “Yes, as long as…”
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