We’ve probably all felt dehydrated at some point in our lives. Those extreme feelings of thirst, fatigue and irritability after exhausting physical activity or a prolonged period in the heat may be all too familiar for some of us. But did you know that children are more prone to dehydration than adults? And their risk increases if they are involved in athletic activities.
Because a child’s body surface (in proportion to overall weight) is much greater than an adult’s, a child produces more heat and less sweat. This means children are unable to get rid of body heat as effectively as adults, which can lead to a greater risk of dehydration and heat illness. Most of the time, mild forms of heat illness and dehydration, such as heat cramps and heat syncope (an episode of fainting or dizziness), may simply mean temporary removal from physical activity and time to rest and rehydrate.
If left untreated, however, more severe heat illness and dehydration that includes heat exhaustion or heat stroke (characterized by nausea, vomiting, headaches, high body temperature, weakness and sometimes unconsciousness) may occur and requires immediate medical attention.
Warning signs of dehydration and heat illness include:
- Cramps in the abdominal muscles, arms or legs (heat cramps)
- Weakness, fatigue or fainting (heat syncope)
- Sweating, fatigue, headache, dizziness, nausea, vomiting, chills, weakness, excessive thirst, muscle aches and cramps, vision problems, agitation or irritability, and sometimes unconsciousness (heat exhaustion)
- High body temperature (often 104°F or higher), nausea and vomiting, seizures, disorientation or confusion, unconsciousness, coma and shortness of breath (heat stroke)
Remember that heat exhaustion and heat stroke require immediate attention. If your child is experiencing any of the symptoms associated with these conditions, take the child to an emergency room.
Make sure your child is drinking enough water. Fluids lost during physical activity need to be replenished to help prevent dehydration, so make sure your child drinks often during practice or play – even if the child is not thirsty. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends 5 ounces of cold tap water or sports drink for a child weighing 88 pounds and 9 ounces for a teen weighing 132 pounds.
It’s also important to make sure your child is wearing clothing that is lightweight (i.e., a cotton T-shirt and shorts) or ventilated to allow excess heat to escape. Light-colored clothing and hats also provide additional protection from the heat and sun.
At Norton Sports Health, our team of experts works with athletes to ensure dehydration and heat illness are treated with appropriate care. We focus on cooling and rehydrating the body as quickly as possible, using ice packs and IV fluids. A considerable amount of rest also is important.
For more information about dehydration, or to make an appointment with a sports health specialist, please call (502) 629-1234.