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Dehydration and Heat Illness in Children

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Treating Heat Illness With Dehydration in Kids continued...

 

Heat cramps. Heat cramps are one of the mildest forms of heat illness. When a young athlete experiences heat cramps, pull her off the field into a cool area and gently stretch the affected muscle.   "Have them drink, drink, drink, and then drink more," says Albert C. Hergenroeder, professor of pediatrics at Baylor College of Medicine and chief of the sports medicine clinic at Texas Children's Hospital

"High-sodium drinks will prevent children from getting heat cramps," says Jackie Berning, PhD, with the National Alliance for Youth Sports. "Gatorade has just enough sodium to prevent those cramps. But if you're a heavy sweater, and you're still getting cramps after drinking Gatorade, eat some salted pretzels or salted nuts. Those work fine." If the cramp goes away, the child can go back out to the game or practice but should be carefully monitored.

 

Heat syncope . Heat syncope is an episode of fainting or dizziness that occurs with prolonged standing or after suddenly rising from a standing or sitting position. In severe instances, the child may lose consciousness. People who exercise without a cool-down period, are dehydrated, and aren't acclimatized to the hot conditions are more likely to experience this problem. Treatment consists of lying the person down and giving fluids if possible. If the person is unconscious or not able to drink, seek medical attention immediately. 

 

Heat exhaustion . Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention. Symptoms include dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness, profuse sweating, excessive thirst, muscle aches and cramps, agitation or irritability, and sometimes unconsciousness. "This is a child who looks really wiped out and has symptoms of a clear problem to the casual observer, but her temperature is still less than 104," says Hergenroeder. Heat exhaustion requires immediate attention but is not usually life-threatening. However, in some cases, heat exhaustion can lead to heat stroke, which requires emergency medical treatment.

 

Just as with heat cramps, a child with heat exhaustion should be brought to a cool place and given plenty of fluids. The child should not be allowed to play or practice again that day. If he is becoming unconscious or confused, has a seizure, difficulty breathing, vomiting, or diarrhea, seek medical attention immediately.

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