The Hamilton Spectator - - GO - DR. AN­THONY CROCCO

Are your kids drink­ing enough?

The word de­hy­dra­tion may sound com­pli­cated, but it re­ally just means “dry body.” It’s a com­mon ail­ment among kids, es­pe­cially in the sum­mer. Luck­ily, it is usu­ally easy to pre­vent and treat, once you know how to spot the signs.

De­hy­dra­tion can oc­cur ei­ther be­cause not enough fluid is get­ting into your body, or your body is los­ing too much fluid. The first sce­nario usu­ally hap­pens when a child is not feel­ing well and isn’t able to drink enough fluid. The sec­ond sce­nario is usu­ally caused by di­ar­rhea or ex­ces­sive sweat­ing.

Sweat­ing is your body’s way of cooling down when it’s hot. That’s why we tend to see more cases of de­hy­dra­tion in the sum­mer. It’s a nat­u­ral, healthy re­sponse to heat, but if that fluid isn’t re­placed you can get de­hy­drated.

How can you tell if your child is de­hy­drated?

• Ask them if they feel thirsty. Thirst is the body’s way of telling us it needs more fluid.

• Look in­side your child’s mouth. If it looks dry, they may be de­hy­drated.

• Check your child’s urine. In­fre­quent uri­na­tion or con­cen­trated urine are signs of de­hy­dra­tion.

• Try the cap­il­lary re­fill test: press the tip of your child’s fin­ger so it turns white. Re­lease and time how long it takes to pink up again. If it takes more than a few sec­onds, they may be de­hy­drated.

If you’re wor­ried that your child is de­hy­drated, you should give them some­thing to drink as soon as pos­si­ble. Wa­ter is a good op­tion, but if your child is sweat­ing a lot they may need some­thing more. That’s be­cause when we sweat, we lose both salt and wa­ter. Sports drinks are a good op­tion be­cause they help to re­plen­ish both of those things. De­pend­ing on how de­hy­drated your child is, they may need two to three times more than they would usu­ally drink.

Left un­treated, de­hy­dra­tion can be­come se­vere and lead to symp­toms like dizzi­ness, rapid breath­ing and faint­ing. If your child doesn’t seem like them­selves, you should take them to your lo­cal ur­gent care cen­tre or emer­gency depart­ment for treat­ment.

To pre­vent de­hy­dra­tion be­fore it starts, make sure your child is drink­ing flu­ids reg­u­larly, in­clud­ing sports drinks if they’re ac­tive out­side in the heat. En­cour­age kids to dress in light cloth­ing that’s ap­pro­pri­ate for the weather, and to avoid in­tense ac­tiv­ity dur­ing the hottest hours of the day. The risk of de­hy­dra­tion doesn’t have to put a damper on your sum­mer fun as long as you plan ahead and play safe.

Dr. An­thony Crocco is chief of pe­di­atric emer­gency medicine at McMaster Chil­dren’s Hos­pi­tal.


Sweat­ing is your body’s way of cooling down, but you need to re­place that fluid.

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