Skip to content
My WebMD Sign In, Sign Up

Children's Health

Select An Article
Font Size

Protecting Your Child From Dehydration and Heat Illness

With the hot days of summer come summer sports -- baseball, tennis, football practice -- both in the neighborhood and at camp. Before you send the kids out to practice -- or just for a long day of play in the sun -- learn to protect your child against the dangers of dehydration and heat illness. WebMD turned to Albert C. Hergenroeder, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of the sports medicine clinic at Texas Children's Hospital, for answers to parents' common questions.

1. What puts my child at risk for dehydration?

Recommended Related to Children

Superior Vena Cava Syndrome in Children

Superior vena cava syndrome in a child is a serious medical emergency because the child's windpipe can become blocked. Superior vena cava syndrome (SVCS) in children can be life-threatening. This is because the trachea (windpipe) can quickly become blocked. In adults, the windpipe is fairly stiff, but in children, it is softer and can more easily be squeezed shut. Also, a child's windpipe is narrower, so any amount of swelling can cause breathing problems. Squeezing of the trachea is called superior...

Read the Superior Vena Cava Syndrome in Children article > >

The same things that put you at risk for dehydration: prolonged exposure to high temperatures, direct sun, and high humidity, without sufficient rest and fluids. The difference is that a child's body surface area makes up a much greater proportion of his overall weight than an adult's, which means children face a much greater risk of dehydration and heat-related illness.

2. What signs of dehydration should we watch for?

Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, thirst, dry lips and tongue, lack of energy, and feeling overheated. But if kids wait to drink until they feel thirsty, they're already dehydrated. Thirst doesn't really kick in until a child has lost 2% of his or her body weight as sweat.

Untreated dehydration can lead to three worse types of heat illness:

  • Heat cramps: Painful cramps of the abdominal muscles, arms, or legs.
  • Heat exhaustion: Dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, muscle pain, and sometimes unconsciousness.
  • Heat stroke: A temperature of 104 or higher and severe symptoms, including nausea and vomiting, seizures, disorientation or delirium, lack of sweating, shortness of breath, unconsciousness, and coma.

Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke require immediate care. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that, when untreated, can be deadly. Any child with heat stroke should be rushed to the nearest hospital.

3. What can I do to prevent dehydration in my child?

Make sure they drink cool water and sports drinks early and often. Send your child out to practice or play fully hydrated. Then, during play, make sure your child takes regular breaks to drink fluid, even if your child isn't thirsty. A good size drink for a child, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics is 5 ounces of cold tap water or sports drink for a child weighing 88 pounds, and nine ounces for a teen weighing 132 pounds. One ounce is about two kid-size gulps.

Get them acclimatized before summer practice. "If you're going to send your kid off to tennis camp, they shouldn't be sitting around doing nothing in May and then going out to play tennis eight hours a day in June," says Hergenroeder. "They should be outdoors jogging, riding a bike, and otherwise slowly building up their fitness and ability to handle the heat." The fitter children are, the sooner their bodies will start to sweat after beginning to exercise -- and that's a good thing!

WebMD Medical Reference

Next Article:

Today on WebMD

preschool age girl sitting at desk
Article
look at my hand
Slideshow
 
woman with cleaning products
Slideshow
young boy with fever
Article
 

worried kid
fitArticle
boy on father's shoulder
Article
 
Child with red rash on cheeks
Slideshow
girl thinking
Article
 

babyapp
New
Child with adhd
Slideshow
 
rl with friends
fitSlideshow
Syringes and graph illustration
Tool
 
6-Week Challenges
Want to know more?
Build a Fitter Family Challenge – Get your crew motivated to move.
Feed Your Family Better Challenge - Tips and tricks to healthy up your diet.
Sleep Better Challenge - Snooze clues for the whole family.
I have read and agreed to WebMD's Privacy Policy.
Enter cell phone number
- -
Entering your cell phone number and pressing submit indicates you agree to receive text messages from WebMD related to this challenge. WebMD is utilizing a 3rd party vendor, CellTrust, to provide the messages. You can opt out at any time.
Standard text rates apply

WebMD Special Sections