Are Your Children At Risk for Dehydration This Summer?

Last updated on September 2nd, 2019 at 07:46 pm

Welcome to summer, the kids are out of school, summer camps are in full swing, family trips all over the country have begun and just in case you haven’t noticed, it’s hot outside. It is turning out to be one of the hottest summers on record with temperatures reaching triple digits in many parts of the country. As it heats up, summer safety becomes a serious issue. With all this fun and traveling going on please don’t forget to ask yourself one very important question, “are my children hydrated well enough to handle this heat?” the answer is most likely no.

Thousands of children each year are admitted to hospitals with heat-related illnesses and most go home, but there are the cases every year where children end up overheating and dying because they were not hydrated properly. As I write this, it’s a beautiful 94 degree Saturday here in Miami with all the humidity you can handle and that means one thing for us here at the fire department. A huge increase in the amount of heat illness related calls we are going to run and most of them will be on children.

As parents when we think of dehydration, we think of our children being sick and having a bout of diarrhea and or vomiting, and the doctor tells us to keep them hydrated with plenty of fluids. That is all well and good and as good parents we make sure our little campers get plenty of fluids and are back healthy A.S.A.P., But the kind of dehydration I am talking about is the kind we as parents tend to overlook in the rush of our day to day lives and that is the everyday dehydration of our very active children. By the time a child says he is thirsty, he is already dehydrated, and with studies finding that 50% of children participating in sports activities were already dehydrated we need to be hydrating our children before, during, and after physical activity as well as keeping an eye out for the signs of heat-related illnesses.

Recommendations for hydrating children ages 6 to 12 include:

  • 4-8 ounces 1 to 2 hours before activity
  • 5-9 ounces every 20 minutes of activity
  • After activity, replace lost fluids within 2 hours

Recommendations for hydrating young athletes ages 13 to 18 include:

  • 8-16 ounces 1 to 2 hours before activity
  • 8-12 ounces 10-15 minutes before activity
  • 5-10 ounces every 20 minutes of activity

Being able to recognize the signs of heat-related illnesses is critical and should be done by us the parents as well as the coaches. A basic awareness of the signs of heat-related illnesses could make all the difference, so here are some key points to be on the lookout for as recommended by Susan Yeargin, PhD, ATC.

Types of heat illnesses

Athletes who exercise in hot or humid weather are particularly at risk of heat illnesses:

  • Heat cramps
  • Heat exhaustion
  • Heatstroke

Symptoms of impending heat illness

In addition to educating young athletes about both the importance of hydration and the dangers of heat-related illness, ensuring that they are drinking enough fluids, and taking precautions to reduce the risk of heat injury in children in hot and humid weather, you need to watch your child for symptoms of impending heat illness:

  • Weakness
  • Chills
  • Goose pimples on the chest and upper arms
  • Nausea
  • Headache
  • Faintness
  • Disorientation
  • Muscle cramping
  • Reduced or cessation of sweating

A child continuing to exercise when experiencing any of these symptoms could suffer a heat illness.

Heat cramps

Symptoms:

  • Thirst
  • Chills
  • Clammy skin
  • Throbbing heart
  • Muscle pain
  • Spasms
  • Nausea

Treatment:

  • Move child to shade
  • Remove excess clothing
  • Have child drink 4 to 8 ounces of fluid with electrolytes (sports drinks) every 10 to 15 minutes

Heat Exhaustion

Symptoms:

  • Nausea
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Reduced sweating
  • Headache
  • Shortness of breath
  • Weak, rapid pulse
  • Dry mouth
  • Rectal temperature less than 104?F.

Treatment:

  • Move child to cool place
  • Have child drink 16 ounces of fluid containing electrolytes for every pound of weight lost
  • Remove sweaty clothes
  • Place ice behind child’s head
  • Seek medical attention, if no improvement

Heat Stroke

Symptoms:

  • No sweating
  • Dry, hot skin
  • Swollen tongue
  • Visual disturbances
  • Rapid pulse
  • Unsteady gait
  • Fainting
  • Low blood pressure
  • Vomiting
  • Headache
  • Loss of consciousness
  • Shock
  • Excessively high rectal temperature (over 105.8F.)

Treatment:

  • Call 911
  • Remove sweaty clothes
  • Immediate and continual dousing with water (either from a hose or multiple water containers) combined with fanning and continually rotating cold, wet towels on head and neck until immersive cooling can occur.

As parents we tell our kids to study and do their homework so they will be prepared, well we as parents need to do our homework as well when it comes to recognizing the signs of heat-related illnesses and staying on top of hydration. Luckily for those parents who live and breathe on their iPhone there is help. iHydrate is an app that reminds you to hydrate yourself and your children before, during and after activities. App or no app, stay alert, keep those children hydrated and please remember, when in doubt call 911.

About the Author

Greg Atwood is a Firefighter /Paramedic in Coral Gables Florida and works for the Coral Gables Fire Rescue. He is an American Heart Association certified instructor in BLS ( Basic Life Support ), ACLS ( Advanced Cardiopulmonary Life Support ), and PALS ( Pediatric Advanced Life Support ). Greg currently lives in Miami Florida with his beautiful wife Alexa and their 2 sons, Connor and Jake. Greg is a former member of the PedSafe Expert team

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