"As long as he's drinking when he's thirsty, he's fine, right?"
By the time a child gets thirsty, he or she may already be dehydrated.
Because children's bodies don't cool as quickly or efficiently as adults', they are more at risk for dehydration and overheating - and also because they're often just too busy being kids and having fun to notice they're not drinking enough. That's where you come in.
Kids should be active and get plenty of exercise - at least 60 minutes of physical activity every day - but it's important that parents, guardians, childcare providers and coaches know how to keep them well-hydrated as they play, especially during hot summer months. Kids who are playing hard, or who are hanging out in the heat and sun, should drink plenty of water before, during and after activity.
- Drink Before Activity - Make sure your child drinks 12 ounces of fluid 30 minutes before exercise or going outside to play.
- Drink During Activity - If your child is less than 90 pounds, he or she should drink 5 ounces of fluid for every 20 minutes of activity. If your child weighs more than 90 pounds, increase it to 9 ounces every 20 minutes.
- Drink After Activity - Have your child drink water for an hour after activity to replace the fluids that have been lost.
Because it's not likely you have a measuring cup with you everywhere you go, a good way to make sure your kids are drinking enough is the 10-gulp rule.
The 10-Gulp Rule
The average child's gulp is about half an ounce. So most children should drink 10 gulps (5 ounces) for every 20 minutes of play.
What Should Kids Drink to Stay Hydrated?
Water, water and more water! Sweat is almost entirely water (with a few salts and sugars thrown in), and sweat is what keeps kids and adults cool when it's hot outside and body temperatures rise. So give your kids plenty of plain old H20 to keep them cool and hydrated. Sports drinks are okay every once in a while, but remember that they are usually high in sugar. Milk is another great option that helps build strong teeth and bones. And finally, what should kids not drink? Avoid all the sugary drinks like soda, fruit punch, lemonade and iced tea.
Other Tips for Staying Cool
- Avoid being outside during the hottest part of the day, usually between 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.
- Dress kids in light clothing, a brimmed hat and sunscreen of at least SPF 30.
- Check the weather and have kids play inside on extremely hot and humid days.
Already Dehydrated? What To Do
Though most of the time, dehydration is safe to treat yourself, it is possible for children to become so dehydrated that it becomes an emergency requiring immediate medical attention. Call your family doctor or 911 right away if your child:
- Develops severe diarrhea, with or without vomiting or fever
- Has had diarrhea for three days or more
- Has been vomiting off and on for more than eight hours
- Can't keep any fluids down
- Is irritable or disoriented
- Is much sleepier or noticeably less active than usual
Complications from dehydration can range from relatively mild heat cramps to more serious conditions like heatstroke, seizures, kidney failure, swelling of the brain and hypovolemic shock. Dehydration, especially among young children, can even be fatal.
So play it safe this summer and keep your kids cool and hydrated as you encourage them to get 60 minutes of physical activity every day.