So, how do we keep our children from becoming dehydrated? You can, after all, lead a horse (or pre-communication child) to water, but you can't make them drink.
Some symptoms of dehydration are headache (how would you know?), tiredness (could be confused with general crankiness, right?), and decreased urine output. Now this last one is one that we really can watch, but we have to be paying attention! You can also check for darker urine than usual. Urine should actually be quite clear when a person is properly hydrated. All of these can still be treated at home. You just need to get some fluids (preferably breastmilk or water) into your kid.
You have a medical emergency on your hands if you or your children reach the point of severe dehydration. Here are the signs:
- Extreme irritability - another tough one to truly identify when you're out in the heat with your family. Who doesn't get irritated after a while in the heat?
- Extreme thirst - again, likely to happen in the heat anyway. You should definitely allow everyone to drink as much water as they want!
- Rapid heartbeat - while likely to happen in very active play, I think this one would be a bit easier to check. You would need to be familiar with your child's normal heart rate first.
- Fever - I'm kind of in the air about this one. I mean, if you're out in the heat the kids would feel hot already, right? And it would be difficult to check because you'd be hot, too.
- Sunken eyes - we can all notice this one. Surely.
- Exhaustion - not to sound like a broken record, but heat is exhausting. It just is. Still, watch for extreme exhaustion, I guess.
- Shriveled and dry skin - this is another that should be noticeable if we're paying attention.
- Carry cool water with you any and every time you leave the house. Bring enough for everyone. Sometimes I leave for a quick errand and don't take water with me. I always regret it. For one, I'm paranoid that this will be when I get stranded roadside and two, Sasha always wants a drink of water in the truck now! She gets very upset (and as the momma I feel very guilty) when there is none.
- Offer water often. We do this in the Girl Scouts, too. A child may not think to drink water until they're already dehydrated. It is our job to remind them. Despite how sweaty and sticky (and stinky!) we may be, I always let Sasha nurse all she wants, too.
- Allow for acclimation to the heat. If you're planning a camping trip in the heat or will be starting up a regularly scheduled activity outside, start getting your kids ready for it. Take them out into the heat for a little bit at a time and slowly work your way up to longer time periods.
- Dress children in loose clothing. Have them wear a hat with a brim if they'll be in the sun. If in the shade, a hat or bandana are both good. You can wet either down with water to help keep cool, too. There is a reason these are required items for Summer Camp!
- Take breaks! Don't keep your family out in the heat for extended periods if you can avoid it. Get inside and cool off periodically. This can make it easier to check for symptoms of severe dehydration, too! If they're still extremely irritable after some rest and cool drinks / snacks... or they still feel hot (fever)... or they're still exhausted... you may have severe dehydration on your hands.
- Take advantage of cooler days. If you see that the temperature is going to be a bit lower or it will be overcast one day soon, plan your outings on that day. Use that cooler weather for some outdoor fun without the excessive heat.
- Its also a good idea to keep sunblock and protein-rich snacks with you, but these aren't specifically dehydration preventatives.
- A spray bottle can come in very handy, too! When Sasha won't take a drink of water (and I think she should), I pour some cool water in my hand and rub it over her face. She thinks it is funny and I like that it cools her down a bit. I hate how car-seats wrap around kids and hold heat in on them. Use a spray bottle to mist your family or just wet your faces (and/or bandanas) in a pinch.
I am not a doctor of any sort. This is information I gathered and ran through my own mental filter for thoughts. If you have any specific concerns, please ask your own pediatrician / doctor.
Get out there and enjoy Summer Time with your kids, if you can! I can't, so enjoy it extra for me! Just be safe and keep an eye on your little ones. And remember to apply all these pointers to yourself, too! We must take good care of ourselves in order to take good care of our children.
What do you do to beat the heat... but still enjoy the Summer?