BY LINDA STEVENSON, PhD, RN, FNP-C, PEDIAQ SENIOR NURSE PRACTITIONER
We’ve had a mild summer so far, but as we all know the heat here in Texas can be intense. Last week sunscreens were the topic, this week I’d like to share with you some information about summer heat and dehydration. Infants, young children and teen athletes are at highest risk for heat related illnesses.
So how do you recognize heat exhaustion? When they are suffering from heat exhaustion a child will have lost large amounts of salt and water. They may complain of severe thirst, fatigue, headache, nausea, vomiting and sometimes diarrhea. They may feel slightly dizzy and their skin may feel cool and clammy.
If the child is out of doors move them to the shade or indoors’ right away. Alternate between giving them frequent small sips of water and a sports drink. Have the child lie down and apply cool wet towels to their head, neck, chest & legs. Or you can place them in a tepid shower, but stay with them in case of weakness or fainting. If this occurs seek medical attention.
What about heat cramps? Those of you with child /teen athletes be on the lookout for these muscle spasms that can affect the legs or abdomen and also can cause generalized aching. Have the child sit or lie down in the shade or move indoors. Give them water alternating with sports drinks. Have them slowly and gently stretch the affected muscles. If your child is not better within 1 hour seek medical attention.
How can you avoid these heat related illnesses and dehydration? Avoid being outside between 11am and 3pm as much as possible. Always have your child drink more water than you think they need. Have them hydrate before, during and after activities. Avoid fluids with caffeine as they increase the dehydration risk. When playing actively in the heat a child should be drinking fluids every 10 to 20 minutes and you should expect them to have to urinate every 4 to 6 hours. If a young child has not urinated every 6 hours they are not drinking enough fluids. Plain water is fine if they have been in the heat for less than 1 hour, but alternate water and sports drinks if they are in the heat over an hour. Also, remember adolescents beginning sports training during the hot summer should have a 14 day heat acclimatization process to reduce heat related illness risk.
Using these simple tips can help you and your child beat summer heat and dehydration. Stay tuned for the next blog about swimming safety in my summer series.