Beat the Heat: Teaching Kids About Hydration

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Our bodies simply don’t function the way they should if they aren’t properly hydrated. The problem is, kids aren’t really aware of that. You have to teach it!

I’m thirsty mom!” is a common phrase that brings a little ring to your ears. Getting enough fluids is vital to everyone’s health, but especially for young kids who don’t yet do things for themselves. As they grow, your kids need to learn how important hydration is, especially during sports and exercise.

Teach kids about hydration by modeling good hydration — especially when there are outdoor activities planned on hot, hot days.

“The risk of heat-related illnesses [exertional heat illnesses, heat exhaustion and heat stroke] it’s really highest when children and adolescents are exercising in a hot temperature environment,” says Dr. Uche Onyewuchi Nwankwo, DO, MHS, general pediatrician and adolescent subspecialist at Mercy Health. Dehydration is dangerous, and causes a decrease in performance during a favorite activity.

Have you ever seen dehydration in a child? It includes sweatiness, cool or clammy skin, nausea and lethargy. Even a small body of water deficit can cause increased perception of effort and core body temperature, according to Nwankwo.

“Hydration is paramount, especially in the summertime,” Nwankwo says. “Parents should learn the signs of heat exhaustion and be able to communicate this with their children.”

KNOW YOUR CHILD’S WATER NEEDS

So that heat never takes over your child, monitor his water intake by knowing his bodyweight and activity level. Before, during and after any physical exertion, kids need to drink one-half cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes of activity. Taking in enough fluids at least two hours before an activity that exceeds an hour has been shown to minimize water deficits during exercise, Nwankwo says. In addition, a one-hour activity for a child of almost 90 pounds benefits from drinking 18 ounces of water (three six-ounce servings); a child who weighs 130 pounds or more needs about 25 ounces (three eight-ounce cups). In addition, according to Nwankwo, every 90-pound child needs five ounces of water every 20 minutes; every child 130 or more pounds needs nine ounces every 20 minutes.

WATCH FOR SIGNS OF THIRST

Keep track of your child’s water intake at home and stress its importance when he’s away.

TIPS FOR ENCOURAGING HYDRATION

• Use water bottles to encourage drinking water on the go.

• Mark lines on your child’s water bottle to show how much he should drink by a certain time.

• Avoid soft drinks and limit access to juices.

• Infuse water with fresh fruit to add flavor and variety.

• Offer water in fun cups or with silly straws.

• Be a good example and drink water throughout the day.

Nwankwo also says to aim for water and milk to keep your child’s electrolytes up and to avoid sugary drinks.

Amanda Hayward is editor of this publication. She is from Cincinnati, Ohio, a military wife and mom of two. If you don't see her writing for Cincinnati Family, you'll find her running, juggling kids, teaching group fitness classes and cooking up healthy recipes.

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