When it's hot out, we're all more likely to lose fluids. But children can get dehydrated any time of the year. Before you send your child off to play outside, here's what you need to know about the signs and symptoms of dehydration.
What Dehydration in Children Looks Like
The very first symptom of mild dehydration in children is often thirst. But when kids are absorbed in a game of soccer, tennis or tag, they're usually too busy to even notice this subtle sign. But mild dehydration can worsen throughout the day, setting your child up for more serious dehydration later.
Knowing these signs and symptoms can help you spot dehydration and treat it promptly:
While it's important to keep an eye out for these signs yourself, it's a good idea to familiarize your child with them, too. This way, if they're starting to feel dehydrated, they can report back to you right away.
Also, have them keep an eye on the color of their urine. Different shades can offer helpful hydration clues. Let them know that, ideally, their urine should be pale yellow or the color of lemonade. If it's dark yellow or amber, they may be dehydrated.
How to Stop Dehydration in its Tracks
A little planning can go a long way in avoiding dehydration. For starters, it can be helpful to know how much fluid your child needs and the best ways to get it.
Children younger than eight years old should consume between 4 to 6 cups of fluid each day to stay hydrated, while older children should drink 6 to 8 cups.
For kids of all ages, it can be helpful to add plenty of water-rich fruits and vegetables to their diets. Even though we get most of our fluids from actual liquids, experts estimate that we get about 20% from foods — primarily produce.
If your child is averse to drinking plain old water or is a bit of a picky eater, these tips can help ensure they're getting plenty of fluids from their diet.
For quick rehydration on the go, you can also carry along powdered oral rehydration solution packets to add to water bottles.
Best Practices When Treating Dehydration in Children
Dehydration can run the gamut from mild to severe. Drinking the right fluids can help reverse mild to moderate dehydration. However, all fluids aren't equally effective.
Some research has shown that drinking water and milk, as opposed to soda and other packaged drinks, can result in better hydration overall. But, according to one study shared in USA Today, roughly 20% of kids in the U.S. don't drink plain water at all during the day. Even though beverages like juice, soda and sports drinks may seem like good sources of hydration, they don't contain enough sodium and potassium to help bodies hold onto water. Plus, their sugar levels interfere with the body's ability to absorb fluids.
If you suspect that your child is mildly or moderately dehydrated, an electrolyte solution such as Pedialyte® can deliver the combination of fluids and electrolytes needed for quick rehydration. However, if your child is severely dehydrated, seek medical attention immediately because advanced dehydration can be life-threatening.
Be Careful Not to Overhydrate
Although it may be tempting to have your child drink as much liquid, and as fast as possible, when you see the signs and symptoms of dehydration set in — don't. It is possible to overhydrate, which presents health risks of its own.
Too much water can result in reduced sodium levels in the blood. When that happens, your child may develop hyponatremia, a condition with symptoms ranging from nausea to seizures. This electrolyte imbalance can occur when someone drinks very large amounts of fluid in a short period, especially if the fluid does not contain sufficient electrolytes.
If your child plays competitive sports or attends fitness-focused camps, talk to their healthcare provider about proper hydration strategies. Because while knowing the signs and symptoms of dehydration is crucial, when you have an emergency hydration plan in place, it can help keep your child safe and poised to return to summer fun sooner.
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