Dehydration happens more easily in children than adults – they need more water and other fluids to maintain cellular and, specifically, kidney function. Even if they are not sick, as the weather begins to warm and kids are running around again, its important to remember to keep them well hydrated.
Besides inadequate hydration during exercise, and excessive sweating from exercise, other causes of dehydration include:
- Excessive sweating. Preteens and teens who participate in sports are more susceptible, because they tend to be thinner and may not even notice the early warning signs of dehydration while they are busy competing
- Excessive Urination: This is most often the result of diabetes but certain medications — including antihistamines can lead to dehydration
- Severe diarrhea and/or vomiting
Symptoms of Mild Dehydration:
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Lethargy- less active than usual
- Decreased urine output — fewer than six wet diapers a day for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens
- Crying without tears
- Muscle weakness
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
Severe dehydration is a medical emergency:
- Extreme fussiness or lethargy
- Coated tongue and dry mouth
- Very dark or minimal urination
- In infants, the soft spots on the top of a baby’s head can be sunken in
Besides exercise and illness, other risks include:
- Hot or humid weather
- Heated, indoor air can cause your skin to lose moisture, increasing your daily fluid requirements.
- Altitudes greater than 8,200 feet (2,500 meters)
How to Prevent:
1.Oral rehydration solutions such as Pedialyte for infants and children who have diarrhea, vomiting or fever. These commercial solutions are developed with specific proportions of water, salt and sugar to replenish both fluids and electrolytes.
2. Give small amounts frequently: don’t allow your child to gulp fluids, especially if they have been vomiting. This will more than likely result in vomiting, and then you begin a vicious cycle of thirst/purge/thirst. Better to offer them fluids in small amounts every 15 minutes.
3. Don’t stop breast-feeding when your baby is sick, but add an oral rehydration solution as well. If you give your baby formula, try switching to one that’s lactose-free until diarrhea improves or add a probiotic
4. Avoid dairy and other difficult to digest foods which don’t relieve dehydration and which may make symptoms worse.
For exercise-related dehydration, cool water is the optimum choice. Many sport drinks contain significant amounts of potassium, which small children especially do not need, especially if they are not urinating much.