With the hot and humid days of summer in full swing, concerns arise over the safety of children playing sports, attending summer camps, or being outside with these sweltering temperatures. Heat exhaustion and potentially fatal heat stroke are serious threats to children and adults and should be proactively and cautiously avoided through proper hydration and monitoring.
One study involving summer soccer camps showed that over 75 percent of children showed up for practice already minimally dehydrated. This was before the running and sweating even began. Heat exhaustion can sneak up quickly as the summer sun bears down on children, especially if the child is already dehydrated before even stepping outside.
Here are some guidelines to keep your kids properly hydrated and to avoid the dangers of heat exhaustion for your children this summer.
Keeping Kids Hydrated
- Begin your child’s hydration process a day before any extended time outside in the heat.
- Stay on top of water consumption so they are drinking before they even feel thirsty. Once they are thirsty, they are already partially dehydrated.
- Children should be drinking approximately six to eight cups of water every day, but even more than that if active, sweating, or exposed to high temperatures.
- During physical activity in the heat, have your child drink five to nine ounces of water every 20 minutes.
- In the midst of the heat, consider a drink packed with electrolytes and carbs, but be careful not to choose those sports drinks that are high in sugar and artificial flavors and sweeteners. Coconut water is an excellent source of naturally occurring electrolytes.
- DO NOT serve your kids sodas, caffeinated beverages, or juices that are high in sugar. Juices containing 100 percent fruit juice may be an occasional option if your child is becoming bored with plain water, but dilute the juice to limit the sugar consumption.
- Good snack options for hydration are fruits and vegetables which contain high amounts of water such as cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, watermelon, strawberries, and baby carrots.
Warning Signs of Heat Exhaustion
- Muscle Cramps
- Dizziness and Weakness
- Nausea, Vomiting, Diarrhea
- Increase in Internal Body Temperature
- Irritability, Inability to Continue Playing
- Pale Skin
What to Do When Heat Exhaustion Strikes
- Move your child to a shaded or air-conditioned location.
- Cool them down with cold towels.
- Have them drink water or an electrolyte-filled drink.
- Remove any extra clothing or sports equipment.
- Closely monitor your child’s symptoms. If they become more severe or do not improve, seek professional medical attention immediately.
As always, trust your instincts as a parent. If you are concerned about your child’s well-being during or after an extended time in the sun or heat, do not hesitate to contact your doctor or hospital. Summers are meant for enjoying the outdoors and playing with friends, but the dangers of heat exhaustion should not be ignored. Set a good example for your kids by drinking enough water yourself, and then go have fun soaking in the summer sun!