Parents are unintentionally heating up prams: here's what you need to know

22 February 2023
How to protect infants from heat stress when out and about
A University of Sydney study finds common strategies used to protect infants from the heat can warm up a pram by almost 4 degrees Celsius. The researchers recommend new strategies to keep infants cool as temperatures soar.

In line with current advice, the scientists found that covering a pram with a dry flannel or muslin wrap heated up the pram by up to 3.7 degrees Celsius. In contrast, combining a damp muslin cloth draped over the pram with a clip-on fan reduced the temperature within the pram by 4.7 degrees relative to the outside temperature.

Senior researcher on the study Dr James Smallcombe from the University’s Heat and Health Research Incubator told ABC News the topic was under-researched but extremely important.

“Four degrees can make a really substantial difference, both to the thermal comfort and reducing the risk of overheating during hot weather." 

The study, published in the journal Ergonomics and led by PhD student Fauzan bin Maideen reinforces current advice, but is believed to be the first to research and recommend scientifically-based low cost approaches for keeping infants cool in a pram while out and about.

Co-author and Director of the Incubator Professor Ollie Jay said the research could help inform updated guidance for families as heatwaves become more intense worldwide.

"I think what we're offering is not just telling people what they shouldn't be doing, but it's what they can actively do to reduce how hot the pram gets in summer,” Professor Jay of the Faculty of Medicine and Health and Charles Perkins Centre told ABC.

Take home messages

  • Avoid covering a pram with dry materials
  • Drape a moist cloth over the pram to keep the carriage cool (re-wet every 20 minutes)
  • Add a clip-on fan to provide even greater cooling
  • Regularly check on infants for signs of heat stress 

What does the Health and Health Research Incubator do?

This work is part of a larger program of research from the University’s Heat and Health Incubator, a multi-disciplinary team of researchers striving to develop evidence-based solutions to tackle the heat health impacts of climate change across the entire human lifespan.

“The growing extremes of climate will ultimately affect all of us and it is something many industries, governments and individuals worldwide are just starting to grapple with. Our mission is to help them."
Professor Ollie Jay

Their diverse research projects cover people of all ages and walks of life–from pregnant women and kids exercising in the heat to elite athletes–vulnerable older people to agricultural workers or those working in garment factories in Bangladesh.

They are leading their field in developing low-cost and sustainable cooling strategies, with their work profiled in the first-ever Lancet Heat and Health Series, co-led by Professor Ollie Jay.

New projects for 2023 include developing pioneering heat risk tools to help vulnerable people navigate their way safely through heatwaves and an NHMRC Ideas grant led by Dr Yorgi Mavros exploring the intersection between heat exposure and mosquito-borne diseases.

Declaration: The authors of the prams study have no funding or competing interests to report. 

Michelle Blowes

Media & PR Adviser (Medicine and Health)

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