Things are heating up! That means it’s even more important this time of year to watch out for signs of dehydration in your kids. While this is commonly believed to be a summer issue, (which is true!), it’s still a risk year round. So while the hot summer sun beats down and your child is outside getting sweaty, you’ll need to take special precautions to prevent dehydration symptoms before they start! And keep in mind, dehydration can also occur if and when your child gets sick, whether it’s a stomach bug or a feverish flu, the risk is serious business. Whatever you might be worried about, we have the details you need about warning signs, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of dehydration for your little one. Stay cool, read on!
Dehydration can be severe. In many cases, it’s more than what a bottle of water and a good moisturizer can fix! Severe dehydration can be life threatening and must be taken very seriously. This means watching out for your child if they are sweating a lot during a hot or humid day or while engaging in physical exercise. Keep a careful eye during episodes of fever, vomiting, or diarrhea as this is when a lot of fluids can be lost. If your child has decreased intake of fluids due to an illness or if they have a chronic condition that dehydrates them, be especially careful as risks will be higher. No matter whether your child is active, sick, or healthy indoors, dehydration is still very possible. So, keeping the fluids flowing should always be a top priority!
If you are worried about any of the risks above for your child, keep in mind the signs of dehydration that you should watch out for. These include dry mouth, decrease or darkening of urine, dry skin (including cracked lips), less or no tears when crying, sunken eyes, feeling very sleepy or dizzy, and fast heart rate and breathing. In babies, also watch for if the soft spot on the top of their head looks sunken in. If any of these symptoms look severe to you, please do not hesitate to reach out to your pediatrician for expert advice, or in urgent cases use emergency medical services.
For mild symptoms, get your child out of the sun and into the shade as soon as possible to stop dehydration in its tracks. This will help to stop the sweating and make your child more relaxed. To start treatment, have your child drink as much water as they are willing to, but do not force it because they could throw up and lose more fluids. While older kids might benefit from a sports drink as well, it is generally best to stick with water only.
If the child is losing fluids through vomiting or diarrhea, it will take more than a few sips of water to cure the loss of fluids. Children are also losing the proper balance of sugars and salts in their body. To remedy this, try an oral rehydration solution (ORS) such as Pedialyte. These are readily available over the counter in your grocery store or pharmacy and contain the necessary electrolytes to get your little one rehydrated! Start by giving them one or two teaspoons at a time. Continue to use an ORS to rehydrate your child over the course of several hours. The ORS will also work for nursing babies as long as they are not repeatedly vomiting. Provide the solution to your baby in between breastfeeding meals. For formula-fed babies, halt the use of formula until your baby is keeping their fluids down. Start returning the diet to normal when your little one is feeling better.
Ice, popsicles, and other chilled beverages can be a great way to help cool down and hydrate your child or to ease the pain of a sore throat. When your child is sick or in pain, and it is hindering them from eating and drinking, give them over-the-counter relievers like acetaminophen or ibuprofen. These medications help to control fevers which can get ahead of further fluid loss. Even if your child is not exhibiting signs of dehydration in kids, if they are vomiting or have diarrhea, they will need to compensate for the loss of fluids by steadily drinking more than usual.
Active kids, especially during hot or dry weather, need special care and attention to make sure that they are getting enough fluids and taking breaks often. Kids should not wait until they are thirsty to drink. It is important to be proactive during risk periods to make sure that the symptoms can be stopped before they start.
At Coastal Kids Pediatrics, we take the signs of dehydration in kids very seriously. We want the best for your little one, just like you do! So when your family is out there frolicking in the summer sun, keep in mind that your child needs a little extra care and attention to stay happy, healthy, and hydrated!