Now that summer break is upon us, children will be heading outdoors more. But as temperatures and humidity continue to heat up in South Florida, children could find themselves in a dangerous situation at risk for heat exhaustion or even heat stroke. Hydration is particularly important for children because their internal cooling system isn’t fully developed yet. The surface area of a child is smaller and sweat glands aren’t fully developed, which makes it much harder for the body to cool itself.
Dr. Danielle Madril, UnitedHealthcare Chief Medical Officer, offers the following tips to help make sure children stay hydrated.
Common Signs of Dehydration:
• A dry or sticky mouth
• Few or no tears when crying
• Eyes that look sunken
• 4 Gulps Rule for Water: For every 15 minutes of outdoor activity drink about 4 ounces of water, which is approximately 4 gulps. That’s around 16 ounces of water per hour, or more, depending on activity level.
• Skip the soda and sports drinks: Avoid soda and sugary name-brand sports drinks which were developed with an adult’s body in mind. Carbonated water mixed with fruit juice is a great alternative to soda. Use frozen fruit as ice-cubes in water or seltzer water too.
• Pretzels, fruit, cheese: Every 30 – 45 minutes give the child a small snack with salt and potassium to help protect against electrolyte loss. Pretzels or crackers or a cheese stick with some oranges, banana, or strawberries are good options.
• Popsicles, gelato, smoothies, yogurt: Fun ways to increase hydration in children is to make home-made popsicles and gelato with real fruit, providing a fresh fruit smoothie made with coconut water, milk or milk substitute, or yogurt.
• Hang a pee chart in the bathroom. Make a color-coded chart from clear to light yellow to dark yellow to teach children what a healthy level of hydration looks like, and when they need to drink more water. Many of these can be found online and printed at home.