Soaring summer temperatures can be a great threat to active kids, resulting in dehydration and heat-related illness. Each year more than 300 people die of heat-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many more children require medical attention for dehydration and heat illnesses suffered during the hot summer months.
Dehydration can be prevented by drinking enough fluids. It’s a simple enough solution but often not practiced, as medical records show.
To protect children, as well as others, from becoming dehydrated, encourage them to drink enough fluids before, during and after physical activities. Offer regular breaks and ensure that fluids are readily available. Supervise youngsters carefully when they're active, especially on hot days when fluid needs are even greater. Consider fluids as part of the essential safety equipment for sports.
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 aged 8-14 do not know how to prevent dehydration in their children.
Follow these 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 children’s bodies to cool off.
It’s important to drink before, during and after activity to replace what is lost through sweat. Cool water is recommended for most types of exercise of one hour or less under moderate temperature conditions.
Studies have shown that children often prefer lightly flavored sports drinks over water and will drink more fluid when these beverages are available. In very hot and humid conditions, sports drinks or diluted juices help to replace electrolytes including sodium and potassium lost through sweat. These beverages also contain carbohydrates, which help to provide energy, especially in strenuous exercise of one hour or longer.