As summer sneaks up on us, parents need to focus on keeping their children adequately hydrated. Young children, who tend to spend a great deal of time outdoors being active, are more susceptible than adults to dehydration; they produce more heat, sweat less, and may be less likely to drink enough fluids.
Here’s what to watch out for:
- Dehydration can be mild, moderate, or severe. Dryness of the lips and mouth in addition to thirst are the few signs of a mild case.
- As dehydration increases to a moderate state, symptoms begin to include dizziness, cramping in the arms and legs, confusion, irritability, light-headedness, headache, producing less urine and dark in color, weakness, extreme fatigue, and nausea.
- If your child looks confused or delirious, has a fast pulse, has dry, red skin and feels cool and clammy to touch, they are suffering from severe dehydration and are in extreme danger. You should seek medical attention immediately in this case.
What to do:
- If your child is suffering from dehydration, get them out of direct sunlight, lay them down in a cooler environment, and elevate their feet. Remove any unnecessary clothing and begin re-hydrating them with cool (not icy) water.
- In the case of mild dehydration, replacement of fluids should take care of the problem.
- For moderate cases, call your doctor as dehydration in children can progress rapidly from moderate to severe so it’s best to let your doctor decide whether it can be treated at home or not.
- Severe dehydration is a life threatening condition and requires immediate medical attention. If left untreated it can result in seizures, permanent brain damage, and even death.
As with any condition, the best treatment is prevention. Keep your child cool, adequately hydrated, and minimize exposure to extreme heat. Make sure they drink plenty of fluids, avoiding drinks with large amounts of sugar. Simple measures such as wearing a hat with a brim, frequently applying adequate sunscreen, wearing light-colored, loose-fitting, absorbent clothing and scheduling outdoor activities to morning and evening hours can go a long way in preventing dehydration.
Smart Ways to Hydrate:
Water is always the best fluid to keep children hydrated; there is no substitute. However, offering milk and 100% fruit and vegetable juices are also great options. Steer away from soda, sports drinks, juice nectars, and vitamin waters; these aren’t recommended.
Other great ideas include offering your kids water enriched fruit and veggies such as watermelon and cucumbers, making your own frozen treats with fresh juice, and adding a spritz of lemon or other fresh flavors to water bottles, and even indulging in healthy smoothies.