Get Sun Savvy

6 Ways to Prevent Dehydration in Kids
by NatureBox Health Writer, Jenilee Matz, MPH

Think back to your childhood summers. Do any of your favorite memories include splashing in the pool, playing “tag” with friends, or enjoying the local playground? Probably so!

Not only is playing outdoors enjoyable for children, but it’s good for them too. Kids get an ample dose of vitamin D from the sunshine and plenty of exercise to help them stay healthy.

But fun, summertime play can take a turn for the worse if certain safety checks aren’t in place, as children can get dehydrated easily. Kids have a higher risk of dehydration than adults because they:

  • Sweat less. Sweat naturally helps our bodies stay cool.
  • Produce more heat during exercise.
  • Are more easily distracted. It’s easy for kids to forget about hydrating when they’re in the midst of an intense game of “Marco Polo”.
  • Don’t know the warning signs of heat-related illness. They won’t stop that game of Marco Polo until they reach extreme exhaustion.

Dehydration can make kids uncomfortable and can even be life-threatening. Signs of dehydration in children include:

  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Irritability
  • Dry mouth
  • Cool, dry skin
  • Eyes that look sunken in
  • No urine for 12 hours (or a small amount of dark yellow urine)

In babies, dehydration is more likely to occur because of illness. Symptoms of dehydration in infants include a sunken in soft spot on the top of the head and no wet diapers for 6 to 8 hours.

To prevent dehydration- and protect your children from the sun- follow these summer safety tips:

  1. Get your child in the habit of drinking water. Our thirst sensation doesn’t kick in until we’re already a bit dehydrated, so it’s important to teach kids to drink before they get thirsty. Try to limit sugary or caffeinated beverages. If your child loves juice, dilute it with up to 50 percent water.
  2. Hydrate early and often. Give your child a glass of water 1 to 2 hours before heading outdoors, and another cup 10 to 15 minutes before going outside. Children under age 10 should take in a half glass of water every 20 to 30 minutes that they’re outdoors, and kids older than 10 should drink a full glass of water. During exercise, kids should take water breaks every 15 to 20 minutes.
  3. Protect your child with SPF 15 sunscreen or higher. Help your child apply sunscreen before heading out when they’re less distracted and enticed by other activities and friends, and reapply it throughout the day.
  4. Stay inside between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m. Or, at least limit outdoor play or seek shade during midday. This is when the sun’s rays are at their peak.
  5. Dress your child in loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. Choose clothes made with natural fabrics over clothes made with synthetic materials to keep your child cool.
  6. Be a good role model. Sip on water throughout the day and wear sunscreen, and your child will likely follow suit.

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Jenilee Matz, MPH is a medical writer, health educator, and runner based in Charlotte, NC