Kids at Risk for Dehydration

As soon as the weather gets warmer, kids head outside to play, and that can put kids at risk for dehydration if they don’t drink enough water. Most parents don’t realize that kids are much more susceptible to dehydration and heat illness than adults, and the effects are more serious. Part of the reason is that kids absorb more heat than adults, but sweat less. They also have less fluid and can go from mild dehydration to severe dehydration more quickly than adults. This is why kids need to have water on the go.

Kids produce more metabolic heat during physical activity. A child can lose up to a quart of sweat during two hours of exercise. They will feel the effects of dehydration and other heat related problems more quickly than adults will. Early signs of dehydration may include dryness of the mouth, thirst, warm skin, dizziness and leg cramps. If a child has a rapid pulse, a flushed face, sunken eyes or drowsiness, these are signs that serious dehydration is starting to occur. The child should be placed in the shade and given cool water and a cool washcloth on the forehead and on the wrists. If the symptoms last for more than an hour they should be taken to a medical facility for treatment.

Dehydration occurs when the body loses water content and essential body salts, such as potassium (essential for nerve and muscle function), calcium bicarbonate, and phosphate. Sodium and Chloride help the body to retail fluid. Sports drinks can restore body fluids, electrolytes, and salt balance.

Studies show that kids will only drink about 50% of the water they need unless it’s flavored. Then they will usually drink about 90%. Water is the most important nutrient for your body and parents and coaches need to make sure kids drink enough of it, even if it has to be flavored to get them to do it. Once they become dehydrated it’s harder for them to catch up.

Dehydration can be prevented if kids do the following:

* Drink plenty of fluid while out playing in the sun
* Drink before you actually get thirsty
* Play during the cooler hours
* Take plenty of rest breaks
* Avoid soda and sugary drinks
* Stop playing if you have a headache, dizziness, or become disoriented

Dehydration places kids at risk for serious conditions, like heat exhaustion and heat stroke, which can be life threatening if left untreated. But dehydration is completely preventable as long as kids drink enough of the right kinds of fluids.

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