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Parents Test How Dangerous It Is to Cover Strollers With a Blanket

Photograph by Twenty20

The next time it's blazing hot outside and you're tempted to cover your baby's stroller or car seat with a blanket or a cloth, these parents are hoping you'll literally drop it like it's hot. Charlie O'Brien and Jason King (JK), married parents from Channel Mum, wanted to show just how dangerous it can be to cover Baby up that way, despite parents' best intentions.

The parents of two decided to test just how hot it gets inside the stroller when it's covered in something even as thin as a muslin cloth. JK and Charlie parked a fake baby (Baby James) in a stroller outside, exposed to the sun in 86ºF weather. When the stroller was uncovered (but with the hood extended), temperatures reached a peak 85.8 degrees F in seven minutes. When they covered the stroller with muslin, temperatures climbed up to 95.1ºF in just seven minutes.

A similar test was performed in 2016 by reporters at the Swedish newspaper Svenska Dagbladet. Svante Norgren, a pediatrician at a Stockholm children’s hospital, had told the paper that even the thinnest of covers can create furnace-like heat inside and reduce air circulation. Because young children's bodies can heat up three to five times faster than adults, and they don't sweat as much, babies trapped in covered strollers could be at risk of heatstroke.

To re-create the heat changes, the reporters left an empty stroller in the sun on a hot day. Without a cover, the temperature inside the stroller reached almost 72ºF after 90 minutes. When they added a thin cover, the temperature inside reached 93ºF in 30 minutes, and almost 100ºF after an hour.

"This is a mistake that lots of parents make," Charlie said in the video. "We did it with our first baby, because we didn't know any better."

Some experts, though, don't want parents to panic.

"Let’s not be crazy about this," Dr. Wendy Sue Swanson, a Seattle pediatrician who writes the Seattle Mama Doc blog, told Today. "For a hundred years, parents have been draping blankets carefully and safely over their baby strollers to protect them from the sun, and we still want them to do that. But we can be thoughtful about it, and this is a good reminder."

With a baby's skin being so much more sensitive and fragile than an adult's, parents should try to keep their babies from getting burned and keep them safe from direct UV rays. That's why pediatricians recommend that babies under 6 months of age be kept directly out of sunlight.

But if it's not possible to avoid going outside on hot days, stay in the shade as much as possible and take frequent breaks. Using an umbrella won't restrict air circulation like a blanket might. Small fans can also help.

Dr. Christian Nechyba, who works at Carolina Kids Pediatrics in Raleigh, North Carolina, told ABC 11 that choosing the right stroller is important. Look for ones that are light in color and avoid excess cushioning. Select a model with a large canopy and a removable back canopy, or some kind of opening in the back, to get the air flowing.

Most important, frequently check on your babies for warning signs of heat exhaustion like extreme thirst, weak and rapid breathing, and hot, flushed skin.

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