With summer getting hotter and winter recording historical low (thanks to global warming), it’s not surprising to have the temperatures exceeding 100 degrees in some states during the summer.
You’ll find that car seats today are heavily padded for improved protection from front, rear and side impacts, and seats become increasingly ‘deeper’ as a result. This means that babies are safer than before during their commute, but it comes with one downside – heat entrapment.
This is especially true for rear facing infant car seats where the air-conditioning cannot hit the infant directly and thus, you end up with a red-faced, sweaty and screaming baby.
Car seat manufacturers are well aware of this, and they create ‘premium’ versions of car seats as an upgrade to the basic one with supposedly more breathable fabric and sometimes use mesh where they could.
While these features certainly help to ensure a more comfortable ride for the little rider at the back, there are more that we can proactively contribute to keeping the child cool in the car seat.
I’ll start some of the free methods, before moving on to introduce you to some of the cool solutions available on the market. Here they are:
Pre-Cool Before The Ride
Before you head out, you can turn on the A/C for a few minutes before buckling up the child.
This tip is only applicable when you’re either at home or some other familiar places like your friends’ houses.
You wouldn’t want to do that at the mall for you’ll either annoy the person waiting for your lot, or mark yourself out as an easy target for street predators.
Schedule Your Trips In The Mornings Whenever Possible
We all have our grocery trips, clinic appointments, errands to run, and other commitments. Why not plan in advance and start our day early?
Not only is the weather more pleasant, you’ll likely find yourself with less traffic on the road (less cursing at the wheel…), less waiting time, and less crowd in public places.
By the time the afternoon heat creeps in, you’d have likely checked off most of your errands and able to babysit at the comfort of your own home.
I’m not a fan of running errands in the evenings but if it works for you, then that’s great.
We all want to dress the little one fashionably to be ready for the daily photo moments, but if you’re traveling for long duration in excess heat, save the nice clothes until you’ve arrived at your destination.
While in the car, you can’t go wrong with a set of lightweight, loose, and breathable cotton clothing. You’ll reduce the probability of him/her throwing a tantrum, and you’ll get nicer shots in his natural skin tone instead of a red-faced sulking toddler.
Water Is Your Friend
You can take a damp clean cloth and use it on the child’s hair and skin to cool him/her down. The neck area works particularly well. For older child, a spray bottle will come in handy during a hot summer ride.
First, the skin will feel cooler the moment the wet cloth (or water droplets) touches the skin. But the main mechanism of cooling happens when the water evaporates off the skin, taking excess heat off the child.
However, if you’re going to an air-conditioned place after getting off the car, be careful not to wet the child’s shirt too much to avoid catching cold afterwards.
Try Evaporative Cooling Towels
These towels work on a same concept, cooling by evaporation. The material is like a piece of car shammy, and what differentiates it from a regular towel is its ability to absorb and retain a greater volume of water.
You can lay it across the child’s lap and cool his/her face, and use it on your own too if you’re feeling the heat😉
Do note that it should NOT be used underneath the harness straps.
Consider Lighter Colored Interior
This only applies to those who are considering a new car, or those who’re doing upholstery on their car seats.
We know that darker colors absorb and retain more heat compared to lighter colors, which reflect a larger percentage of the heat. A beige-colorer interior is the common color of choice, but you won’t go too wrong as long as they’re not black and dark gray.
It may require more frequent cleaning, but if you’re at the stage where you’re actively increasing your household count, your seats will get milk stains frequently anyway, so it will be a worthwhile consideration.
Get Your Windows Tinted
If you’ve been considering whether or not to get your vehicle windows tinted, this is the time to pull the trigger.
A quality window film not only rejects the heat and glare, but it also offers other benefits to both driver and the toddler in the back seat.
Here’s a summary of the benefits of professional tinted windows:
- Blocks up to 99% of damaging UV rays to protect the baby’s sensitive eyes and tender skin.
- The film laminate helps to hold the glass together instead of shattering into tiny pieces upon impact.
- Reduces eye fatigue for the driver, resulting in a more focused driving.
- Enjoy more privacy when you make a breastfeeding stops.
Before you rush out to get your film installed, do note that there are window tinting laws that vary from state to state (sometimes cities to cities within a state) and you need to ensure your installers discuss your options and ensure your compliance with the local regulatory standards.
Here’s a state law chart updated as of March 2016:
If it’s not within your budget at the moment, you can opt for a static cling temporary shades instead.
Use Reflective Sunshades and Car Seat Sunshades Before Leaving The Car
An outdoor parking lot under the Sun will heat up you car real quick. Using a reflective sun shade on your windshield can really make a huge difference to slow down the toasting.
For the car seat itself, you can purchase a car seat sunshade to wrap up your seat to keep it cooler. Make sure it covers the metal buckle because a sudden contact with a scorching metal buckle can result in unintentional vulgar outburst…
Place A Car Seat Cooler
A car seat cooler is essentially ice packs in a cover. Bring the frozen ice pack with you while you’re out and place it in the car seat before you leave your car. The seat will be nice and cool when you return from your errands and put your child into the seat.
NEVER place a child on top of the car seat cooler. The cooler is meant to be used on EMPTY car seat only.
Try The Noggle
The Noggle is a gadget that’s getting pretty popular recently, and rightly so. It essentially directs the air from one of the car’s vent to the little rider in the back seat via a flexible and lightweight tube.
This is great for vehicles without the back vent! Even for vehicles with back air vents, in the case of a rear facing car seat, the air only hits the rear of the car seat. With the Noggle, you can channel the air effectively to keep the infant cool and comfortable.
During winter, you can bring the Noggle out again to keep the baby warm in the car seat. Kill 2 birds with 1 Noggle!
3 IMPORTANT SAFETY TIPS…
So now you have the tips so your child will never be hot and overheat in the car seat again. But before you go, I’d really like to bring your attention to some very important safety tips.
While this article is about ensuring your baby’s comfort, the ultimate purpose of the car seat is your baby’s safety. I’ve seen many parents unknowingly sacrifice and compromise the safety to keep their children cool, and I don’t want you to be one of them.
This is the most often overlooked and neglected thing in ensuring a safe car ride.
In the event of a car crash, objects in the car have the potential to dislodge and fly freely. It does happen when you slam your brake without impact too.
I’ll save the more detailed version of in-car safety for another post, but to stay on track about keeping the little passenger cool, the most common items that well-meaning parents use wrongly are roller shades, suction cup shades, fans, and hard sippy cups.
These items are great to have when all is normal and fine, but during an accident, they pose great risks to the child on-board, and other passengers in the car.
Yeah you might be thinking, “Sipping cup? Oh please be more paranoid!”. Well, check out this post about how a child ended up with 400 stitches and multiple surgeries, because of a free flying sippy cup…
Tempering of Car Seat Harness Straps
The harness straps are designed to stay close to the child’s body so that in case of an impact, it holds the child to the car seat while spreading the destructive force over the child’s body via the contact points. That’s why we prefer the 5-point harness, rather than its 3-point cousin.
When we notice that a child is hot and sweaty in the seat, our parental instinct tells us to loosen up the harness to allow for more movement. DO NOT listen to your instinct.
Also, I mentioned about never place the cooling pack or cooling towel under the strap, always over. You’ll be making 2 very costly mistakes if you do otherwise.
Firstly, you’re altering the physics of how a seat functions, since ALL crash tests are conducted with the car seat and a child dummy, and never any accessories in between. This brings us to the second mistake.
You will void the warranty of the car seat and be denied of any injury claims if aftermarket accessories are found on the seat involved in a crash, unless they are certified for use by the manufacturer.
Leaving The Child Unattended In The Car
This is a mistake many of us are guilty of at some point in our parenting lives. But the consequences are bad enough to never let this happen again.
A child’s body heats up 3 to 5 times faster than an adult, and the interior takes just 10 minutes to increase by 19 degrees. If left unattended in a vehicle on a summer month, it can turn into a disaster easily.
If you notice any child alone in a hot car, call 911 immediately and try to get the child out of the car if he/she appears in distress.
With the tips above, I’m sure your child will never be hot in the car seat again. Feel free to combine the pointers at your convenience and according to your circumstances.
Lastly, do not compromise safety for comfort. Enjoy the Sun!