Before I was a Mom, I was a nurse in the ICU at a major county hospital. One of the pieces of advice that I remember from ER nurses, is that KIDS will be perfectly fine and stable for a long time AND THEN WHEN THEY CRASH THEY CRASH FAST AND THEY CRASH HARD!
It’s actually pretty amazing how well kids can tolerate heat, but without hydration, rest, and shade they will reach a limit. When the body’s reserves are depleted, heat-related illness can occur and help is needed. Heat stroke occurs when the body overheats and is no longer able to cool itself down. Without treatment, a child’s core temperature may rise up to 105, which is a serious health threat! This is why it is so important to prevent and recognize the risk of heat stroke. In places around the U.S., the summer temps can reach over 100 and the humidity can stay high. In addition, kids love love love to play outside every day and all day! Know the signs of possible heat stroke and how to prevent it in your beloved little ones!
Tips to Prevent Dehydration and Overheating in Kids this Summer
- Drink, drink, drink. The experts recommend children be encouraged to drink water or electrolyte “sports” drinks every 20 minutes during outdoor activity. Avoid sodas, tea, and caffeine. Try to find electrolyte beverages low in sugar. A little sugar is actually good as it will encourage them to drink more, but too much can increase urination. Another option is to alternate a sugary “sports” drink with a sugar-free drink or flavored water.
- Eat your fruit. Keep cold grapes, watermelon, and bananas on hand for snacks. Fruits are naturally packed with water and electrolytes.
- Eat your meat. Chicken and even hamburgers actually help the body retain water. Kids may only eat a few bites, but it will help in a big way! A small salty snack is also great for helping the body absorb water.
- Chicken Soup for Summer Dinners. Soup is a perfect way to rehydrate and chicken soup is even better.
- Smoothies are great options and ever so refreshing. Whip up a fruit smoothie with fruit, a little milk or yogurt, and ice and keep your kid running on a full tank!
- Seek shade. I love to set up little tents by pulling two pool chairs close together and draping a towel over the back. Invest in a small tent or canopy for areas with little shade.
- Try to plan outdoor activities in the morning or early evening. Avoid the heat of the day if possible.
- Never ever leave your child in a hot car. Not even for a few minutes. Not even with the windows down.
- If sending your kids to camp, send them with an insulated water bottle and double check that the camp will offer water breaks. Ensure staff is trained in recognizing and treating heat-related illnesses.
- If your child had a recent stomach bug with vomiting and diarrhea, consider limiting outdoor activity for a day or two even after symptoms subside.
- Every child is different. Some children may not be affected by the heat so much, while others may be more sensitive to it. Be aware of each child’s individual needs.
Recognize the Warning Signs of Heat Stroke
The early warning signs are basic thirst and feeling tired. Listen to your little ones and help them rehydrate.
Muscle cramps are another sign that your child’s body is not getting the electrolytes (i.e. potassium) they need. Find some shade and encourage them to drink a beverage with electrolytes or eat a banana.
If your child stops sweating or can’t produce tears, this is a major red flag. Sweating is a good sign. Sweating is how our body naturally cools down. Pat them with water or damp cloths and get them to a cooler environment.
Major signs of heat stroke are restlessness, confusion, vomiting, fainting, and lethargy (or unexpected sleepiness). If you see these signs in your child, seek medical attention.
When you are outdoors with your little one, watch them for signs of dehydration and decide when to call it a day and head home if necessary. For further information check out the resources below.