Is using an air conditioner (AC) or cooler safe with a newborn and babies?
Yes it is safe, provided you take a few precautions. Most doctors agree that it is safer to use a cooler or an air conditioner (AC) with a newborn than to let him stay in a hot, airless and humid environment.
Babies, particularly newborns, can’t adjust their body temperature as well as adults. This makes them vulnerable to overheating and heat-related illnesses such as heat rash, dehydration, heat exhaustion or heatstroke.
On the other hand, a room that is too cold could severely lower your baby’s body temperature and chill him. Follow these tips to help keep your baby safe and comfortable while using an air conditioner or cooler:
Maintain a comfortable room temperature
Changes in the outside heat and humidity can affect the cooling of your AC or cooler. Your room could get chilly or warm very quickly, making it uncomfortable for your baby.
So, keep the temperature at a comfortable setting, that is not too cold or too warm. Our paediatrician, Dr Saroja Balan, recommends maintaining a range between 23 and 26 degrees C.
- If you are using an AC, set the timer for the duration it takes to cool down the room. If your AC doesn’t have an inbuilt timer, use an alarm clock to remind you. If it doesn’t have a temperature display, keep a thermometer in the room to help you monitor the temperature.
- If you are using a cooler, leave a window or door partly open to allow the passage of air, especially in humid weather such as the monsoon. As a cooler evaporates water to cool, it increases the humidity in the air. In a closed room, the humidity keeps going up and eventually the cooling will stop. This can bring a gradual rise in the temperature, making the room hot and sticky.
Some experts suggest using a fan or the AC instead of a cooler in humid weather.
Keep your baby away from the direct blast of cold air from the AC or cooler
- Dress your baby in light layers that cover his arms and legs. Doing so will protect your baby from cold air.
- You may like to try a light cap for his head and some light cotton socks or booties to cover his feet.
- If you plan to use a light blanket, make sure you tuck it below his elbows to avoid covering his face.
- Ideally your baby should wear one more layer than you and should not be dressed too warmly for the room or wrapped too snugly.
Get your AC or cooler regularly serviced for clean and efficient cooling
Speak to the service centre or check the manual for details on how and when servicing should be done.
Keep your baby well moisturised as using an AC may dry up his skin
You may have heard that dipping an ear bud in baby oil and gently swiping it in each nostril may help as it may prevent nose bleeds caused by dry nasal passages. However, do check with your doctor before applying any oil to your baby’s nostrils.
Some mums also recommend keeping a bowl of water in the room. The water is believed to help reduce the dryness by keeping the air in the room “moist”.
Don’t take your baby to a warm place immediately after leaving an air conditioned room
The sudden changes in temperature may cause your baby to get sick. Instead, switch off the AC and give him time to get used to the outside temperature.
Before switching on the air conditioner in your car, air it out
A stationary car can get very hot, especially during the summer. To cool it down, try opening the windows for a few minutes. This will allow the trapped hot air to come out. You can roll up the windows and switch on the air conditioner after some time.
It isn’t necessary to use an AC or cooler at all times. In fact, when it isn’t too hot or humid, many mums prefer to use just a ceiling fan. It works well to keep your baby cool and comfortable.
As hot air rises and leaves the lower levels cool, you can keep a thin mattress on the floor for your baby to rest on.
Draw the curtains to keep the sun out and dress him in a light cotton jhabla or onesie. When he starts to get hot or bothered you could move him to a cooler room or switch on the AC. You may want to add a layer to keep your baby comfortable in the colder room.
If you use a palna, check if it allows free movement of air. High, raised edges may prevent air flow and your baby may get hot and uncomfortable. Follow these safety tips when using a palna for your baby.
Reviewed by Dr Saroja Balan, BabyCenter India’s expert paediatrician.