Dehydration and kids – what you need to know

Dehydration and kids what you need to knowWhile standing on the sidelines cheering my eldest on at his soccer game is enough to get me reaching for my water bottle, my kindergartener with the flushed face needs a little reminding to hydrate. As temperatures soar it becomes especially important to make sure our children are hydrated – dehydration and heat stroke are all too common in the region and in the emergency department. And children are more prone to dehydration and heat stroke than adults.

Your kids are more susceptible to heat than you are!

As kids have a smaller mass-to-surface-area ratio, they can lose fluid more quickly than adults and become dehydrated more rapidly. Children also have a higher metabolic rate, so their bodies use more water, too. Add to that their kidneys do not conserve water as well as an adult’s and kids often may not drink or eat when they are not feeling well, and you have a recipe for a dehydration disaster! Luckily dehydration is easily preventable. Given the average temperatures here in the desert, we need to be aware year round and teach our children how to prevent dehydration.

To encourage my 5 year old to make a habit of hydrating, I follow two pieces of advice:

    1. Encourage constant sipping over infrequent large gulps
    2. Let him pick out an insulated water bottle that would keep the water cool

Remember: be a good role model -drink sips of water often. Throw a slice of fruit in your child’s water, or a silly straw, or perhaps fun colored ice cube shapes – anything that will encourage constant sipping.

The advice below is not a substitute for seeing a physician.

Is my child dehydrated?

  • Does the child seem sluggish?
  • When crying are there few or no tears?
  • Are there complaints about a dry mouth?
  • Is the child more cranky, irritable or fussy than usual?
  • Is urine darker than usual?
  • If child is an infant, is urination less frequent (fewer than six wet diapers a day)?
  • Is the child constipated?*
  • Is the child’s skin particularly dry and lacking its normal elasticity? Maybe even wrinkled?
  • Do the eyes appear sunken?
  • If your child is an infant is the soft spots (fontanel) sunken?

*Sometimes your child may be dehydrated due to diarrhea. Don’t forget to treat the dehydration.

“Yes” to any of the above may indicate that your child is dehydrated. If it is fairly mild you may be able to address this at home, but check with your physician if you have any questions.

What should I do if my child seems dehydrated?

For children older than 1 and less than 11:

  • If your child is dehydrated use an oral rehydration solution, such as Pedialyte. If your child is eating food, plain water may be used to replace lost fluids. But if the child isn’t eating, plain water doesn’t provide essential electrolytes, so an oral rehydration solution is needed. Avoid sodas, caffeinated beverages or gelatins, which don’t relieve dehydration and may make symptoms worse.
  • Make sure your child is drinking small amounts, frequently.
  • Rehydration may take a few hours, so keep your child in a cool, shaded area and sipping fluids frequently
  • Allow your child to drink as much fluid as he or she wants. Encourage your child to drink extra fluids or suck on flavored ice pops, such as Popsicles. Children ages 4 to 10 should drink at least six to 10 glasses of liquids to replace lost fluids.
  • Call your doctor if symptoms do not improve or if they worsen

How can I prevent my child my child getting dehydrated?

  1. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate.

Insist on your children taking plenty of breaks to drink fluids while playing outside, especially if playing sports or engaged in vigorous physical activity. Perhaps set up a timer as a reminder. Also, hydrate before, during and after time in the heat.

  1. Stay indoors

We’re all about getting kids out and physically active, BUT when the heat is high, avoid spending time outdoors. In Tucson summers this means stay indoors any time after 9 a.m. into early evening.

Our suggestion: wake early to play outside, take a siesta in the afternoon and then venture out in the evening.

  1. Never leave a child in a parked car at ANY TIME, NOT EVEN FOR A MINUTE

Even if the windows are open, temperatures can rise to shocking temperatures in minutes.

  1. Keep it light and wear a hat

Have children wear light, loose-fitting clothes when they’re outside. Breathable fabrics like cotton are best.

Stay cool this summer,

Melissa

Melissa HodgesMelissa Hodges is a pediatric emergency room RN and mom to two young boys. Melissa has been at Tucson Medical Center for ten years. She is a knitting ninja apprentice, who makes a mean chili and enjoys spending time with her family and friends in beautiful Tucson, Arizona.

This advice does not substitute for that of a medical professional. If you are concerned that you or your children may have heat stroke or moderate to severe dehydration please seek in person medical advice.


Tucson Medical Center | 5301 E. Grant Road | Tucson, Arizona 85712 | (520) 327-5461