With the desert summer heat fast approaching, it is important for parents to recognize early signs of heat exhaustion and dehydration in children, as well as  how to treat and prevent them. Children lose water much faster than adults so they do not regulate their temperature as well. It is important to understand that children are much more sensitive to the heat and will become affected by heat faster.

Dehydration in children can become serious very quickly. It is essential to keep children hydrated and to respond immediately if any signs of dehydration are present. It is also important to remember that if a child is thirsty, then he or she is already mildly dehydrated.

To prevent dehydration, drinking water is key. However, hydration also comes from fresh fruit, fresh vegetables, and pure drinks such as coconut water. Foods that can dehydrate the body are those that lack natural water or are high in sodium such as crackers, dry cereal, chips, and processed foods. Be aware of early signs of dehydration, act quickly, and most importantly act preventatively on a daily basis.

Signs of Dehydration:

  • Dry, wrinkled lips
  • Dry mouth
  • Thirst
  • Irritability
  • Lethargy
  • Dry diapers for 6 hours in an infant
  • No urination for 12 hours in older children

Prevention of Dehydration:

  • Drink water regularly, throughout the day
  • Eat fresh fruit regularly, daily
  • Keep head covered
  • Wear loose clothing
  • Stay in the shade
  • Take frequent breaks from direct sun

Heat exhaustion is often accompanied by dehydration, but only occurs when a child is exposed to high temperatures. It is a result of the body’s inability to cope with higher heat, and the body will show specific signs that it cannot regulate its temperatures. Children will get heated faster and lack the ability to cool the body down as quickly. It is much more common to see heat exhaustion in children than healthy adults because of their sensitive systems. Heat exhaustion can be dangerous, so be aware of the signs and seek medical care if your child is not recovering from heat exposure.

Signs of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Fatigue
  • Headache
  • Nausea
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Profuse sweating
  • Muscle or abdominal cramps
  • Irritability

Prevention of Heat Exhaustion:

  • Drink plenty of water
  • Wear sunscreen
  • Stay out of direct sunlight
  • Hydrate adequately 2 hours prior to exercise or sun exposure

To avoid heat and dehydration issues this summer, act preventatively daily. Be sure that children drink plenty of water in the morning prior to sun exposure, eat plenty of fresh foods, stay covered or in the shade, and take frequent breaks from direct sun exposure. If you feel your child is suffering from dehydration or heat exhaustion, it is important to get the appropriate medical care quickly.

Dr. Sinsheimer is a Naturopathic Doctor with Optimal Health Center in Palm Desert and can be reached at (760) 568.2598.

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