Young children are particularly prone to dehydration during hot weather, and they need some extra care and attention. They are less used to coping with heat than adults, and during a busy day of playing in the sun, it is easy for them to lose more fluids than they take in. Here are some useful tips to bear in mind when it comes to keeping kids hydrated.
Recognise the signs of dehydration
First of all, it’s important to recognise when a child is dehydrated. At first, there may not be any sign apart from a complaint of thirst. However, feeling thirsty is a sign that the body is already dehydrated, so ideally this stage should not be reached.
As the dehydration progresses, the child may become excessively tired and sleepy, pass dark coloured urine or very little urine, produce few tears when they cry, have a dry mouth, and feel dizzy or complain of a headache. Teach your child to recognise these signs in themselves and look out for them carefully.
Severe or untreated dehydration can lead to more serious problems developing, including cramps of the limbs or abdomen, muscle pain, nausea and vomiting. Once the body temperature reaches 104°F or more, there is the possibility of developing heat stroke, which is a severe condition that may lead to seizures, delirium, or unconsciousness.
A child with heat stroke should receive urgent medical attention as it can be potentially fatal.
How to prevent dehydration
The best way to prevent your child from becoming dehydrated is to ensure that they drink plenty of water a few hours before they leave the house, so that they are fully hydrated to start the day. If they are going to be active in hot weather, remind them to stop and take a drink of water every 30 minutes.
It’s important to not just rely on your children knowing when they need to drink, even if this seems obvious to you as an adult. Very young children may not be able to communicate their thirst, and older children can become immersed in playing and forget to drink until it is too late.
Waiting until you are thirsty to drink is not a good strategy, as it means the body is already in the early phase of dehydration. Make sure that your children understand this, as they may feel that there is no need to drink so frequently, especially if it is boring plain water.
However, plain water is a much better choice than energy drinks or fruit juices that are loaded with sugar. Drinks with caffeine content should also be avoided, as this triggers more frequent urination and much of the fluid intake is lost.
To make it more interesting for young children, you could make ice lollies flavoured with a little fruit juice. If they are very active and sweating a lot, it may be beneficial to add rehydration tablets to their water. These contain minerals that are lost through sweat, and help the body to reabsorb moisture more effectively.