5 Simple Ways To Help Your Kids Beat The Heat

Use these tips to keep your kid healthy and in play during summer.

July 5, 2017
Simple Ways To Help Your Kids Beat The Heat
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My 13-year-old, Jordan, had been looking forward to his first backpacking trip, the start of training for an outing in the Rockies. He was ready to hike 13 miles in a day, but he hadn't counted on the effect of the hot sun combined with dehydration from sweating. Instead of enjoying a pack-stove dinner with his pals, Jordan ended his hike overheated and too dizzy and nauseated to leave his tent. (Medical professionals want you to know these 6 things before working out in the heat.) 

Though disappointed, Jordan was lucky. Resting out of the sun, drinking water and juice, and getting a rubdown with cold towels brought his body temperature under control. The consequences could have been more serious: Hyperthermia, an abnormally high body temperature, can cause painful muscle cramps and may quickly progress from the nausea, fatigue, and headache of heat exhaustion to the disorientation and loss of consciousness that marks heatstroke (although you should always be on the lookout for these warning signs that you need medical help). 

Kids, especially those under 4, are susceptible to high temps for two reasons: They don't dissipate heat through sweating as efficiently as adults do, and they don't always drink enough to replace the fluid they lose in sweat. Children caught up in a game are likely to ignore their thirst—and, unfortunately, supervising adults may fail to remind them: One survey showed that 3 out of 4 parents don't know the steps they should take to keep their kids adequately hydrated.

Like sunburn and bug bites, hyperthermia is a bane of summer that can be prevented, says Jordan Metzl, MD, medical director of the Sports Medicine Institute for Young Athletes at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York City. Use these tips to keep your kid healthy and in play.

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Heat stroke in kids
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Pour plenty

A recent study revealed that two-thirds of kids at sports camps were dehydrated before exercising. Have your child drink a glass of water before he goes out to play or practice, and make sure he stops periodically to drink, even if he says he isn't thirsty, says Susan Walker Yeargin, coauthor of the study and an instructor at the University of Connecticut's Athletic Training Education Program. Although there are few specific guidelines, she suggests that school-age kids drink about 15 oz a few hours before exercise and about 5 oz 10 to 20 minutes before playing outside. No measuring cup handy? Two kid-size gulps equal about an ounce. (If you suspect that you or someone else has heat exhaustion, this is what to do.

heat stroke in kids
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Pick the right beverage

Sports drinks tend to be high in sugar, but they may have an edge over plain water if they get youngsters to drink more, says Gregory L. Landry, MD, a professor of pediatrics and sports medicine at the University of Wisconsin Medical School. (Don't know which sports sipper is best for your kid? Find out here.) Another option is to add a splash or two of fruit juice to a glass of water—the flavor encourages children to tank up. Avoid caffeinated drinks, such as iced tea or colas; they have a diuretic effect, causing further fluid loss. (Usually you can't go wrong with H2O, but here are a few times when you should back off drinking water.

heat stroke in kids
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Ease him into exercise

Heat's hardest on a child who's not used to it, says Landry. "Kids need 10 to 14 days for their bodies to adjust to warm weather and as long as 6 weeks if they're out of shape or overweight." Get your child outside to kick a soccer ball or ride a bike for up to 45 minutes a day at least 2 weeks before camp, vacation, or sports practice starts. (Get your kids moving for these benefits too!) 

Heat stroke in kids
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Dress her lightly

Clothing should be loose fitting, light colored, and limited to a single layer. Look for high-tech fabrics designed to draw sweat away from the skin and allow it to evaporate (like one of these stylish summer tops that stop sweat stains). 

heat stroke in kids
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Watch the weather

Try to limit your child's most intense activity to before noon and after 4 PM, especially on humid days. Hot, heavy air makes it harder to sweat, says Metzl. 

The article 5 Simple Ways To Help Your Kids Beat The Heat originally appeared on Prevention.

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