Urge Kids to Drink Water During Hot Weather: Expert

Make sure it's readily available and watch for signs of dehydration, doctor advises

FRIDAY, July 23, 2010 (HealthDay News) -- This summer's exceptionally hot weather means children are at increased risk for dehydration, a pediatric expert warns.

"It's always important to keep your kids hydrated, but when you're dealing with this kind of heat it can be especially dangerous," Dr. Sean Cahill, an associate professor in the pediatrics department at Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine, said in a Loyola news release.

"Dehydration puts kids at risk for heat-related illnesses like heat stroke. They can suffer from rhabdomyolysis, which is when their muscles break down and this process leads to kidney failure and damaged muscle cells from crystals in the urine," Cahill noted.

Infants may be at greatest risk for dehydration because they can't get the water they need on their own.

Dehydration can happen quickly so parents need to be watchful for the following signs that children aren't getting enough fluids:

  • Crying but no sign of tears.
  • Eyes that appear to be sunken.
  • Tenting of the skin. This can be tested by pinching the skin on the back of the hand and releasing it quickly. If the skin takes time to return to normal, it may be a sign of dehydration.
  • Low urine output. "Your child should urinate at least four times a day. The urine should be clear. If it is yellow and smells very strong this could be a sign your child is not drinking enough," Cahill said.

Cahill offered the following advice for making sure children stay hydrated:

  • Always bring water during outdoor activities. Fill an environmentally friendly water bottle before you leave home and re-fill it as needed, rather than relying on buying water or finding usable drinking fountains while you are out.
  • Keep reminding your children to drink water -- not juice, soda or milk. Interrupt their playtime periodically for water breaks. "I do this with my own kids. If they don't drink two big gulps of water during the water break they can't go back to playing," Cahill said.
  • Limit your children's outdoor activities during the hottest time of day, which is usually in mid- to late-afternoon.

More information

The Nemours Foundation has more about children and dehydration.

SOURCE: Loyola University Health System, news release, July 19, 2010
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