Kids can get fussy in cars, period. Add some hot summer heat to that and it’s only a matter of time before kids start complaining.
That’s where this article comes in.
We’re sharing our tips and tricks on how to keep your baby cool in their car seat. Plus, we’ve listed additional information about overheating in a car seat and the dangers associated with it.
10 Tips to Keep Your Baby Cool in the Car Seat
1. Dress Your Baby Smartly
Remember the rule of thumb: If it’s TOO HOT for you, it’s going to be too hot for your baby. A hot car will be uncomfortable for anyone!
Newborn babies can only sweat on their foreheads. For premature babies, they might not even sweat.
A toddler will start sweating in their torso, neck, hands, and feet. Kids can easily overheat, that’s why IT’S IMPORTANT to choose the right material to start off your car trip.
Since it’s summer, you should choose to dress your child in BREATHABLE material. The best materials to keep a child cool during the summer are cotton, voile, and jersey knit.
AVOID materials such as fleece, flannel, and wool. Dress your child in light clothing. Avoid things that can overheat them, such as socks and hats.
Prepare materials you can layer instead, such as a thin blanket. This will help in case the air-conditioning gets too cold or if the temperature suddenly drops while you keep cool in the car.
2. Avoid Peak Temperatures
Avoid traveling with your kids during the hottest time of the day, which is between 10 am to 2 pm.
To play it safe, we recommend avoiding up to 4 pm. These are the HOTTEST hours, so your baby is at a higher risk of overheating and sunburn.
That’s why, when traveling with kids, it’s best to do it in the early mornings or later in the afternoon.
You should park in shaded areas whenever possible. Even if it’s going to be farther away from your destination. Believe me, it’s going to be worth it.
Leave all your windows slightly open. Since heat gets trapped inside cars, leaving the windows slightly open will help regulate the heat.
3. Choose the Right Car Seat
Tips for Choosing a Car Seat Color
With a baby, EVERY DETAIL MATTERS. Wouldn’t you agree? This includes the color and material of infant car seats.
Dark car seat colors, such as black or navy, are good for keeping the car seat clean from any stains. However, the DOWNSIDE is that these car seat colors absorb heat in the summer time.
The temperature inside your car will be hotter than the outside.
To illustrate, imagine that the outside temperature is 85 degrees Fahrenheit. This means cars can easily reach 104 degrees Fahrenheit in just 10 minutes.
So, what’s a safe color for infant car seats? White.
Lighter car seat colors do not attract heat because they reflect all visible wavelengths of light. Besides white, there’s also yellow, orange, and red.
Tips for Choosing Car Seat Material
Granted, it will be difficult to find an infant car seat that’s all-white. Most infant convertible car seats are available in black only.
That’s why the next thing you can do is to inspect the material of the infant car seat.
Car seat materials usually come in 3 types:
You’ll want to avoid fabric and vinyl car seats as they can get very hot during the summer. Vinyl car seats, in particular, aren’t as breathable as leather.
That leaves us with fabric car seats, such as nylon or polyester. Fabric car seats provide comfort and breathability in all four seasons.
However, keep in mind that fabric car seats are more prone to stains. These types of convertible car seats can also absorb moisture and cause odors.
BUT MOST IMPORTANTLY, you want to make sure you pick out a safe, non-toxic infant car seat. Your little one will be using it for a while, so it would be best to pick the safest ones as much as possible.
4. Use a Car Seat Cover
Car seat covers are a great way to add an extra layer of protection. Keep in mind though, that you use car seat covers when your child’s car seat is not in use.
Of course, there’s always the option to use reflective sun shades or towels to cover the car seat while your car is parked. However, car seat covers will be much more effective. For example:
- A car seat cover will fit most car seats, whether you’re using a convertible car seat or booster seat.
- Some car seats also come with a seat sun shield. Though it’s MORE EXPENSIVE, this product features a durable material to shield direct sunlight off the car seat.
- There’s also the option to have breathable mesh fabric. A multi-purpose car seat cover blocks out the sun, rain, and insects. It’s also compatible with an infant carrier and strollers.
Car seat covers are available in all shapes, sizes, and price points. So it’s something we recommend all parents invest in, especially if you tend to park outdoors.
5. Use a Car Seat Cooler
Another effective solution is using a car seat cooler. Think of a car seat cooler as an upgraded version of a car seat cover.
Car seat coolers are freezable cooling pads or mats for babies. These coolers are intended to keep the car seat cool while your baby isn’t using it.
All you have to do is throw it in the freezer overnight. Then, unfold it and drape it over your baby’s car seat.
Important note: You should NOT let your child sit on top of the cooler mat. It can cause freezer burn even if it’s summer.
Instead, you should place it on their car seat about 10 to 15 minutes before the car trip. The cooling mat will cool down the car seat, belt, and buckle.
Our personal favorite is the Carats cooling pad.
6. Open All Windows Once You Start Your Car
Open the window as soon as you turn on the car. This will help the heat escape and regulate the air flow.
Take note you should do this BEFORE turning on the A/C. Why?
Contrary to popular belief, it’s not because of benzene, which is a carcinogen!
There was an email hoax a few years ago saying that turning on the A/C as soon as you get into your car will release harmful chemicals, including benzene.
However, that was proven to be false. Instead, you should open your window because of the greenhouse effect.
When your car is parked with the windows closed, this causes your car to warm up and get heat trapped inside the car.
So, opening your windows for a minute or two will allow the HOT AIR from the inside of your car to go outside. This will make your car cool down FASTER.
You could also have a remote car starter. This handy feature will be helpful if you live in areas where summer is unforgiving.
7. Point the A/C Towards Your Child (or Get a Noggle!)
After you’ve followed Tip #6, it’s time to turn on the air-conditioning.
Point the air vents towards your baby. It’s best if your car has a rear A/C duct so the back seat will be cool throughout the car ride.
If you don’t, don’t worry. You can invest in a Noggle.
What is a Noggle, you ask?
A Noggle is a mini duct work to extend your car vents. You install it on the vent tube of your car so that you can keep the cool air flow from your car’s dash towards your baby in the back seat.
Here’s what we like about Noggles:
- Easy to remove and install
- Available for both forward-facing and rear-facing babies
- Multiple sizes available: 6ft, 8ft, or 10ft options
- Can be used in the summer and winter months
On that note, some parents might wonder: Windows or A/C?
We don’t recommend having the windows open during car rides. If you’re driving at a fast speed, the wind from the air can make your child struggle to breathe.
That’s why we prefer turning the A/C on. If you’re worried about your child catching a cold, prepare items you can layer. Or don’t set the temperature too low.
8. Block the Sun
Buy Window Shades
Window shades, or reflective sun shades, are a great way to block out harmful UV radiation.
Some window shades cover the entire window but we find the partial ones work well too.
A normal mesh sun shade works fine and won’t break the bank.
However, if you want something more child-friendly, you can consider a printed one. Kids can look at it during car rides so they’ll be entertained.
You can choose from 3 types of reflective sun shades:
- Accordion: With this option, it will open and close by folding. It’s typically placed on the windshield. However, it can be bulky to store and carry around.
- Mesh: This is an inexpensive, lightweight option that covers the side windows. It blocks out most UV rays and they’re easy to install. However, it can affect visibility while driving (unless it’s a roller shade).
- Custom-Fit: For this option, it will be customized to your car model’s windshield. So it will cover the entire glass to provide full coverage. This will require more effort on your side as you would need to measure and get a customized sunshade.
Tint Your Windows
Some parents don’t like using reflective sun shades during the car ride.
Some flimsy sunshades can easily fly off, hurting your child in the process. Plus, some of them may affect visibility when changing lanes or parking the car.
As such, another option would be tinting your windows. Most people think tinting a window is for additional privacy but tinted windows also combat the heat.
However, tinting a window helps block off sunlight. This will REGULATE your baby’s body temperature during the hot summer. In fact, many window tints block up to 99% of harmful UV rays.
Plus, in case of a car accident, a tinted window can prevent shattered glass from flying inside of your car.
If you’re from the United States, refer to your state laws regarding tinting your windows.
9. Help Your Baby Cool Down
With blazing-hot temperatures, sometimes it’s only a matter of time before your child becomes too warm.
Don’t worry, there are several ways to help your baby cool down.
One of them is having the following items in your car at all times. These will keep your baby cool in the car, or help your little one cool down:
Cooling towels are a quick way to cool off your baby. These will bring down their body temperature and help with OVERHEATING.
A cooling towel is made with evaporative fiber. It retains water while remaining dry to the touch.
All you have to do is add water and wring it out. Place the towel on body parts that feel warm to the touch, such as the neck and shoulders.
To keep it safe, we recommend placing the cooling towel on the hips or legs of your baby. This is to PREVENT your baby from chewing on the towel.
A spray bottle is a CHEAPER ALTERNATIVE to cooling towels. A small 2 oz bottle will cost you about a dollar or less.
Fill up the spray bottle with cool water. Spray it on your baby as needed. You can wipe away the excess moisture using a towel.
Some spray bottles have a master setting in them. Others even have a small fan attached to it.
Personally, we’ve never tried either. However, it could be a convenient little feature. But for safety purposes (i.e. choking hazard), WE DON’T recommend it for younger children.
For older kids, you could buy them a spray fan or regular fan. This way, kids can hold it in place to cool down their body temperature.
But again, for safety purposes, it’s better to tuck it away when you start driving. Even if the fans have soft blades, they might hurt their fingers or it might be a choking hazard too.
Keeping Your Baby Hydrated
Besides cooling towels and spray bottles, it’s important to keep your baby hydrated in the hot summer. Hydration is key in regulating body temperature.
For a toddler and older kids, you can keep a cool water bottle inside the car. You can give them small amounts of water. And if needed, breastmilk or formula feeds to supplement it.
However, if your baby is less than 6 months old, do NOT give them water as it can hinder growth. Formula and breastmilk already contain 85% or more water, so it’s enough to keep them hydrated.
It’s also advisable to have ice packs in a car cooler. You can use it as a backup option for cooling towels or spray bottles.
Place a few ice cubes in a towel and wrap it tightly. Gently massage the ice pack to where your baby feels warm, such as the shoulders.
10. Don’t Leave Your Baby Alone in the Car
This might sound obvious, but never leave your baby alone in the car.
A parked car can become hot very quickly. It can reach up to 170 degrees Fahrenheit in extreme summer temperatures.
This is enough to melt your water bottle and sunglasses.
And yet, the news reports many children STILL DYING of heatstroke. According to the National Safety Council, an average of 38 children die each year because they were left unattended inside the car.
That’s why it’s important to emphasize this point: NEVER leave your child alone in the car, even if it’s just for a few minutes.
When getting out of the car, always ask yourself: “Where’s the baby?”
Kids also climb into unattended vehicles. So always make sure to lock your car doors and trunk.
FAQs on Keeping Your Baby Cool in the Car
#1 What is the Optimal Temperature for My Baby?
The best temperature for your little one is between 68 to 72 degrees Fahrenheit. This is the optimal range that’s not too cold or too hot for your newborn for those long-distance travel car rides.
For premature babies, it’s better to keep the range on the higher end, i.e. 72 degrees Fahrenheit. Premature babies tend to regulate their body temperature slower. Plus, if it gets too cold, they might end up burning too many calories.
As it’s hard to keep checking the temperature, just remember this: If it’s too hot for you, then it’s going to be too warm for your little one, too.
#2 How Can I Tell If My Baby is Overheating?
Newborn babies are unable to regulate their own temperature. As such, check your baby’s head for any signs of sweating.
There’s a chance that premature babies won’t sweat at all. Below are ways to tell if your little one is overheating:
- Your baby’s skin turned red
- Your baby feels warm to the touch
- Your baby has a fever, but isn’t sweating
- Your baby has a fast heartbeat
- Your baby is vomiting
- Your baby is irritable
- Your baby is unresponsive or lethargic
- Your baby seems dizzy or confused
- Your baby’s head is damp from sweat
#3 What Should I Do if My Baby Is Overheating?
- First, remove any extra layers from your little one. This could be their hat, socks, or jacket.
- Lower down the A/C temperature in the car. Or you can take them to a cooler environment with cool temperature, such as inside the mall.
- Use a cooling towel and gently dab it along your baby’s heated skin. In case you don’t own one, use a regular towel and wet it using cool water.
- Hydrate your little one. If they are YOUNGER than 6 months old, give them formula or breastmilk.
- If they’re OVER 6 months old, give them cool water. You can also supplement formula feed or breastmilk if necessary.
Always remember that whatever you’re using should be cool, not cold. If it’s too cold, it might end up shocking your baby.
#4 What are the Dangers of Overheating?
The first thing overheating can cause is heat stroke. A heat stroke can lead to nausea, headache, and vomiting as mentioned above.
Another common side-effect is heat rash. A heat rash appears as small red bumps along your child’s skin.
A heat rash will be itchy and uncomfortable. Babies are more prone to heat rash because they have smaller pores and less-developed sweat glands, which can clog easily.
If you’re lucky, the heat rash will go away once your baby’s body temperature cools down. However, when left untreated, it can dry out your baby’s skin. And your little one may end up scratching it and being fussy throughout the entire car ride.
Putting on powders, oils, and lotions may worsen the heat rash. So it’s best to consult your pediatrician on how to treat a heat rash.
Last but not the least, some studies show overheating can increase the chances of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (more on this below).
#5 Can Overheating Cause SIDS?
Sudden Infant Death Syndrome (SIDS) refers to the unexpected death of babies under the age of 1. The majority of the known cases are related to sleep.
Until now, there is no specific cause of SIDS. That’s what makes it so scary.
However, experts have noticed some risk factors such as:
- Improper sleep position
- Re-breathing trapped air
One of the symptoms of overheating is being lethargic or unresponsive. As such, an overheated baby may not express that they are feeling too hot.
In some cases, they might end up falling into a deep sleep. This will make it more difficult to tell if they are having a problem breathing.
#6 Why is My Baby Sweating So Much?
Sweating is normal for people of all ages, especially during the hot summer. So don’t fret too much!
Babies sweat, sometimes more than us adults, because they’re unable to regulate their body temperature properly. So it’s their body’s natural response.
In most cases, babies sweat because of the hot temperature. That’s why keeping your baby cool in the car is the most important thing to do. Cool temperature is always more comfortable.
They could have too many layers of clothing on, so you can help them remove these.
Crying and sleeping can also cause babies to sweat. So just remember to have spare clothes with you and keep your little one hydrated.
In some cases, sweating is a sign of something more serious. This includes sleep apnea, hyperhidrosis, congenital heart disease, and so on. If you suspect it’s a serious condition, contact your pediatrician to be sure.
#7 How Do I Keep Baby Cool and Hydrated?
For babies (under 6 months old): Breastmilk or formula only
For a toddler and older kids (above 6 months old): Water, plus breastmilk or formula if necessary
Babies younger than 6 months old get all the hydration they need through breastmilk or formula.
Giving them water may:
- Hinder growth due to nutrient deficiency
- Cause weight loss
- Create chemical imbalances, leading to intoxication and seizures
Once your toddler can drink water, you can give it to them in a sippy cup.
This way, they’ll drink in small amounts at a time. Plus, you can monitor how much they’re able to drink.
We recommend investing in a car cooler so you can keep your water cool and have some ice packs as a backup.
When it comes to overheating, prevention is key. You can keep your child cool in many ways. Our best tips are to use cooling towels, buy a Noggle, etc.
But sometimes, overheating is only a matter of time under extreme temperatures. Hydrate your child and let them cool down ASAP.
We hope our tips will help you have a calm and content child during long car rides.
July 23, 2021 – updated interlinking, updated external links