As temperatures climbed toward 37 C Monday afternoon, a mother and her newborn baby entered a Kelowna shop and a situation that had the earmarks of a medical crisis started to play out.
“The baby was a bit red and was having what looked to her like a heat-related seizure,” said Don Blevens, owner of Baby and Me, the shop where the incident occurred.
“We grabbed a cool cloth to wake the baby up … and the mom, who is a nurse, took it from there. The store was air conditioned, her car was air conditioned —it was just from (a short time in) the heat.”
The seizure was mild and the baby is in good shape now, said Blevens.
“But it woke us all up,” he said.
This heat, he said, is simply not safe for really young babies. Environment Canada and Interior Health have issued statements to this effect in recent days as a heat wave rolled over B.C. and toppled temperature records.
“Newborns for that first few weeks … they can’t regulate themselves,” Blevens said, adding that air conditioning at all possible times and just simply staying indoors is the best way to beat the heat for those early days and weeks of life.
READ MORE: HEAT WAVE
That, he acknowledged, is easier said than done.
In a car, it can be complicated to keep little ones cool because air conditioning doesn’t circulate in the direction of rear-facing seats — the recommended way for children to travel during their first two years of life, and beyond.
In strollers, one technique that has long since been used by parents is now known to cause more harm than good.
In the first six months of a baby’s life, the recommendation is to keep new skin out of sunlight, yet sunscreen is not recommended.
So, many mothers throw a muslin cloth over their buggies and get on with getting outdoors.
Warnings against that practice have been issued in recent weeks and Blevens decided Monday to do his own test, walking around with a doll wearing a thermometer and a buggy in a multitude of configurations.
“What we did is we took the temperatures in the shade to get a baseline, and we took multiple strollers and put them into the sun, with a little bit of a breeze,” he said.
The first outdoor reading with the doll inside went up a couple of degrees to 31 C.
Then he put the hood down and the reading went up to about 33 to 34 C.
With the muslin cloth offering what many mothers believe to be shade, the temperature then went up to 36 C in one stroller and 38 C in another.
“It’s a scary thing,” said Blevens. “It’s a common situation — mom will head to the park with their two-year-old and their baby, cover the baby up, because we think we need to keep them shady, but it’s dangerous.”
What parents really need to think about is air circulation.
“It’s done with good intentions …but there’s a lot of misinformation.”
Blevens said that he was even surprised that the muslin cloth added so much heat, noting “I learned a lot today.”
More than a dozen temperature records were broken on Monday, as a heat wave continued to stifle B.C.
The highest of the 13 records set was in Burns Lake, where the mercury hit a scorching 34.1 C, beating out a 2009 record of 33.3 C.
The oldest record beat was in Rock Creek, where 39.3 C beat out a 1929 record of 38.9 C.
Lillooet residents had to endure the hottest temperature, at 40 degrees.
Kelowna didn’t break any records, but Vernon did as the mercury inched above 37 C.
A heat warning remains in effect for much of B.C.
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