With the hot days of summer come outdoor activities and the risk for dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke. About 6,000 individuals are treated in emergency rooms each year for a heat illness sustained while participating in an outdoor recreational activity.  Young males between the ages of fifteen and nineteen are at the greatest risk for heat stroke and dehydration while participating in athletic events. Summer heat and physical activity increases the body’s need for water. Replacing water lost to sweat can help prevent dehydration and keep energy levels up. Taking a few simple precautions will help prevent dehydration and develop good habits.

Get your child in the habit of drinking water by scheduling frequent beverage breaks during an activity; about every twenty minutes or so in hot weather. Research shows that children routinely prefer flavored beverages to plain water and will drink up to 90 percent more when it is offered to them.

In general, young children are more prone to dehydration because their bodies do not cool down as efficiently as adults, especially if they’re outside in hot, humid weather. They also don’t always recognize that they’re thirsty. By the time a child gets thirsty, he or she may already be dehydrated. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, a child of about 88 pounds should drink five ounces of cold water every twenty minutes. Children and teens around 132 pounds should drink nine ounces of cold water every twenty minutes. Sports drinks also replace electrolytes lost from the body through sweating.

Unprocessed food such as fruits and vegetables can provide about twenty percent of our daily water needs. Cucumber, celery, lettuce, radishes, tomatoes, and green peppers are nutritious and contain more than 90 percent water. Summer fruits such as watermelon, cantaloupe, and berries are also high in water. Consuming plenty of hydrating foods, as part of a daily meal plan, is a wise choice. Juicy flavors from popsicles and frozen grapes can also be appealing to children and teens.

Make sure your children get plenty of liquids to stay healthy and active this summer, and help them develop good hydration habits to last a lifetime.

Submitted by Leslie K. Kay-Getzinger, MS, RD
Regional Dietitian for Nutrition Management Services

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