It was a wonderful camping trip with about 15 families on a lake in Eastern Washington in July. The temperature was over 100 degrees F. We were all swimming and playing in the water….the adults were focused on making sure the kids were safe in the water and sun—lifejackets, close supervision, sunscreen. BUT, we were not thinking about effects of heat and dehydration, and kids’ reluctance to quit playing and take time to drink.  By early evening, my five year old was complaining of nausea and a stomach and head ache, her lips were dry.… she had been playing hard in the sun since lunch time, without stopping to drink. We pumped her full of a fruit drink and water and she perked up…fortunately, she was OK…we were lucky. Heat exhaustion and dehydration can be life threatening!

Our bodies are made up of about 60% water; if we are not taking enough in, we become dehydrated—if we are severely dehydrated, we are at risk of death. When it is hot and our kids are playing outside, their fluid needs increase by 100 to 200% over basic, “maintenance” needs (see chart below)—‘same goes for the adults! Even slight dehydration results in decreased performance in athletic activities or physical labor.

Fluid needs will vary depending on how active we are and how hot it is outside. Here are some ways to ensure your kids will NOT become dehydrated. If liquids are readily available, most kids’ thirst drive will keep them from becoming significantly dehydrated:

Have lots of cool water available—water bottle filled with ice and water, add some lemon or lime for flavor. Encourage your child to drink ½ to 2 cups every  hour.

Offer half strength juice or a sports drink every couple hours to increase total fluid intake and give energy. This is important when playing outside for several hours at a time–during those camping trips, or days at a lake or beach. (The high sugar content of full strength juice or fruit drink slows absorption; the sugar content of half strength juice or a sports drink is similar to that of our blood and is readily absorbed)

Have plenty of fresh fruits available for snacks! Fruits are about 95% water, and great ways to bump up fluid intake and give your kids a healthy energy boost—orange slices, watermelon, grapes, peaches, apricots, plums….. try smoothies from  a combination of fresh and frozen fruit or ice—no sugar necessary (blend fresh fruit in blender and then add frozen fruit and/or ice)

Offer frozen fruit juice bars or popsicles for treats.

Signs of dehydration:

Dry lips

Sunken eyes

No tears when crying

Dark colored urine

Thickened saliva

Head ache—nausea, stomach ache

If you notice these signs, your child is very low on fluid. Get him to a cool place (e.g. in the shade) and start giving diluted juice or a sports drink, a couple ounces every few minutes. However, you really don’t want to get to this point–The best cure is PREVENTION.

Maintenance fluid needs: (We meet anywhere from 20 to 25% of our fluid needs with the water in foods like fruits and vegetables.)

First 22 lbs body weight: 1 ½ fluid ounces per pound (33 ounces for 22 pound toddler)

Second 22 lbs body weight: add ¼ ounce per pound (50 ounces for 44 lb child)

Over 44 lbs, add 1/3 ounce per pound (67 ounces for 100 lb adolescent)

Guidelines for additional fluid during outside physical activity in the heat (above 85 °F):

6 ml (1/5 ounce) per pound body weight, per hour of activity—4 ½ ounces for the 22 lb toddler,  9 ounces for the 44 lb child, and 20 ounces for the 100 lb adolescent.

After an activity, additional 2 mL per pound (2/3 ounce per 10 lbs)–20 ounces for 100 lb adolescent, assuming he has met needs during activity.

(Guidelines from: Rowland T; Fluid replacement for child athletes. Sports Medicine, 2011, April, vol 41, no 4, pp 279-288)

Giving a post-workout fluid that contains some sugar and protein helps replace energy and rebuild muscle used during activity— smoothie made with fruit and plain yogurt, , flavored yogurt or Kefir, chocolate milk.