Even with school beginning, it’s still summer. Children will be excited to play with classmates and could spend more time outside, which is why we must remind them that is still hot outside. In just 20 minutes your forehead is damp, and in no time at all, your whole shirt is as well. Diaphoresis (sweating) allows you to keep running around and having fun in the sun, but it can lead to negative consequences. If you see signs of dry mouth, fatigue, muscle cramps, dry skin, drowsiness, or dizziness, there is a chance you are dehydrated. Water to the rescue! Hydration is key to keeping your body working well throughout the scorching day.
Thirst is the mechanism our bodies have to tell our brains that we need water. Water should be the drink of choice for rehydration. Drinking water before, during, and after being active is essential to feeling well. Adding a lime or lemon squeeze is a good way to add some zest to your water if flavor is what you seek. If the sun keeps shining and you are participating in something active, pick up an electrolyte-replacing fluid without caffeine and limited sugar to restore what was lost. Products with caffeine are not meant for children. If kids consume inappropriate amounts of these, they can develop jitters, nervousness, increased heart rate and blood pressure, difficulty concentrating and upset stomachs. Clear chilled water is best.
Children between the ages of 5 and 17 years old should drink 1-2 liters of water daily. If they are spending an increased amount of time in the sun, you can increase that amount by another liter or until their thirst has been quenched.
A child’s body is 65-75 percent water. All the organs— from the heart that pumps blood through you, your kidneys that filter waste products, to even your brain — require water to be healthy and happy. If you don’t have enough water, these organs stop running at their best. If you stop sweating even though your friends are, if you feel like vomiting, or your head hurts so much that you can’t keep playing outside, you are suffering from heat exhaustion. Sit down in the shade or go into an air-conditioned room as quickly as you can and drink water. Heat exhaustion can become heat stroke if not careful. Incoherent thoughts or speech, or a body temperature above 104 degrees Fahrenheit, are clear signs of a heat stroke. Seek immediate medical attention to prevent further harm.
Remind children to take a break, drink some water, then let the remaining summer fun continue!
Dr. Daniel Dvoskin is a pediatric resident at Baylor Scott & White McLane Children’s.