Heat Endangers Children More Than Adults Warns LSU AgCenter Nutritionist

Elizabeth S. Reames  |  7/15/2005 2:57:54 AM

2005 Back-to-school News

Some of the hottest days of the year occur at the beginning of the school year. Soaring temperatures can be a great threat to active kids in the form of dehydration and heat-related illness, says LSU AgCenter nutritionist Dr. Beth Reames.

As a result, many children require medical attention. But Reames says dehydration and heat illnesses can be prevented by drinking enough fluids.

The nutritionist says kids should drink enough fluids before, during and after physical activities. They should have regular breaks in which fluids are readily available. They should be supervised carefully when they're active, especially on those hot days when fluid needs are even higher. Fluids should be a part of the essential sports safety equipment.

Warning signs of dehydration include thirst, headaches and unusual fatigue. Research shows that children are more susceptible to dehydration and heat illness than adults, but a survey commissioned by the national SAFE KIDS campaign revealed that more than three out of four parents of active kids ages 8-14 do not know how to prevent dehydration in their children.

Reames offers a few basics that all parents and child caregivers should know:

• A child can lose up to a quart of sweat during two hours of exercise.

• Children absorb more heat from their environment than adults and cannot dissipate that heat through sweat as quickly.

• Children don't perspire as much as teens and adults, so their body's "air-conditioning" system is less effective. They generate more body heat with exercise, too.

• Children don't adjust as quickly when they exercise in hot weather.

• Protective gear used in many sports, such as hockey and football, hinders the body’s ability to cool off.

Reames recommends drinking cool water for most types of exercise of one hour or less under moderate temperature conditions. She notes that children often prefer lightly flavored sports drinks over water, and will drink more fluid when those beverages are available.

Sports beverages contain carbohydrates, which help to provide energy, especially in strenuous exercise of one hour or longer, the nutritionist notes.

Underlining the seriousness of consuming enough fluids is a public safety campaign called Defeat the Heat. Now in its third year, it is dedicated to protecting active kids from dangerous dehydration and heat illness. It is a partnership of the National SAFE KIDS Campaign and the National Athletic Trainers’ Association (NATA), with support from Gatorade, the Women’s World Cup Soccer League, U.S. Soccer, Major League Soccer, Major League Baseball and the National Basketball Association (NBA) and Women’s National Basketball Association (WNBA).

For information on related nutrition, family and consumer topics, click on the Family and Home link on the LSU AgCenter Web site at www.lsuagcenter.com .

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On the Internet: LSU AgCenter: www.lsuagcenter.com
On the Internet: SAFE KIDS: www.safekids.org/
On the Internet: Defeat the Heat: www.nata.org/publicrelations/helpkidsdefeattheheat.htm

Source: Beth Reames (225) 578-3929, or breames@agcenter.lsu.edu

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