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Keeping Kids Hydrated During the Summer

Blog Hydration Web

When children are outside in the sun and heat, they lose a lot more fluids through sweat and general activity. And if they wait until they are thirsty, then they are already dehydrated.

Stopping to stay hydrated is not top of mind for children, so it needs to be for you. What should you know?

“In general, it’s easy to become dehydrated during the summer, particularly during swimming as the water keeps their body cool, but not hydrated,” says Dr. Rebecca Dixon, a pediatrician at Riley Hospital for Children at IU Health. “The way to tell if your children are properly hydrated is if they are peeing regularly, every six to eight hours. If they aren’t, then that’s a good measure to know that they are dehydrated.”

When children are outside in the sun and heat, they lose a lot more fluids through sweat and general activity. And if they wait until they are thirsty, then they are already dehydrated.

“Children should drink at least a full eight ounces every two hours, especially if they are playing in the heat,” Dr. Dixon advises. “If they are active during the day, they should consume approximately 32 ounces of fluids.”

What can they drink? Not soda, juice or other sugary drinks. They aren’t thirst quenching and the extra sugar is not necessary. It’s best to stick with water.

For kids who don’t like water, Dr. Dixon has several tricks to encourage healthy drinking habits. Her favorite is to purchase fun water cups for each child from a discount store. Kids may be more excited to drink out of a special cup. Keep it filled and available at all times.

Still not interested? Flavored water is a great way to tempt children into drinking more, but flavor it yourself with fruit – the sugars from fruit are healthier than table sugar. Berries or citrus fruits work well. Store the flavored water in a pitcher and just pour the water into their cups to avoid possible choking.

Iced tea and lemonade are other possibilities, but be careful of caffeine and sugar content as both should be limited in children.

Sports drinks, however, should be avoided as they have a lot of added sugar and salt. They are great for adults after an intense workout, but they are not balanced for kids.

“You can also make your own popsicles or buy fruit popsicles,” suggests Dr. Dixon.   “That’s a great way to get liquids in. Another option is fruits that are heavy with water, like watermelon. But any fruit will work as they all have a fairly good amount of liquid in them and they make a great snack.”

Ensuring children get enough liquids throughout the day is important as dehydration can be dangerous. Children who are overheated and dehydrated can end up in the emergency room where a medical staff will rehydrate your child either by drinking, if they can, or through IV fluids. The length of stay will depend on the time it takes for all vitals to return to normal.

There are warning signs that can alert you to potential dehydration and overheating. If they are dizzy or lightheaded, they could be low on fluids. Children who seem disoriented or confused may also be suffering from dehydration. And those who refuse to drink or become combative may also need to rehydrate.

“During extreme heat, it is always better to let your children play outside in the early morning and during the early evening,” Dr. Dixon recommends. “They should stay out of the sun as much as possible during the heat of the day. If they must be outside, make sure they are well hydrated.”

-- By Gia Miller

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