Staying hydrated on hot days: Keeping kids cool and healthy
Is a pediatric gastroenterologist at the Children’s Center for Digestive Health Care / GI Care for Kids, whose books on nutrition for parents led him to start Nutrition4Kids with his co-founders.
Fun and tasty ways to get enough fluids to prevent dehydration.
When it's hot out or kids are exercising or playing hard, their bodies need more fluid to stay cool and healthy. The heat can be overpowering leading to exhaustion, if they're not careful and the consequences can start soon after they feel thirsty and tired. That's why staying hydrated is crucial, and it's important to recognize the signs of dehydration. and some fun and tasty ways for kids to get enough fluids on hot days.
Why is hydration important?
Water is essential for life, and staying hydrated is especially important when the weather gets hot. Here are some reasons why:
- Regulating Body Temperature: When it's hot outside, your body sweats to cool down. Sweating helps maintain your body's temperature in the right range. But when you sweat, you lose water. So, drinking fluids replaces the water your body loses through sweating.
- Brain Power: Staying hydrated is essential for keeping your brain sharp and focused. Dehydration can lead to difficulty concentrating and thinking clearly.
- Energy: Dehydration can make you feel tired and sluggish. Drinking enough fluids keeps your energy levels up, allowing you to play and have fun all day long.
- Physical Performance: If you're an active kid who loves sports or outdoor activities, staying hydrated is crucial for top performance. Dehydration can lead to muscle cramps and decreased endurance.
- Digestion: Water helps your body digest food and absorb nutrients. Without enough fluids, your digestive system may not work as well.
Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration happens when your body doesn't have enough water to function properly. It's essential to recognize the signs of dehydration, so you can take action and drink more fluids. Here are common signs to watch out for:
- Thirst: Feeling thirsty is your body's way of telling you it needs water. If you're thirsty, don't ignore it—take a sip of water! You see athletes doing it all the time on television. Do the same!
- Dry Mouth and Dry Skin: If your mouth feels sticky, and your skin feels dry, it could be a sign of dehydration. Your lips may also become chapped.
- Dark Yellow Urine: Healthy urine is pale yellow. If your urine is dark yellow or amber, it means you need to drink more water.
- Fatigue: Dehydration can make you feel tired and weak, even if you've had enough sleep.
- Dizziness or Lightheadedness: Feeling dizzy or lightheaded, especially when you stand up, can be a sign of dehydration.
- Headache: Dehydration can lead to headaches and make them worse if you already have one.
- Crankiness or Irritability: When you're dehydrated, you might feel moody or irritable. Staying hydrated can help improve your mood.
Tips on how to stay cool and hydrated
Now that you know why hydration is essential and how to recognize signs of dehydration, let's explore some tips and tricks for kids to stay cool and get enough fluids on hot days.
- Drink Plenty of Water: Water is the best way to stay hydrated. Carry a reusable water bottle with you, and take sips throughout the day. You can decorate your water bottle with fun stickers or choose one in your favorite color to make it more exciting.
- Fruit-Infused Water: Make water more appealing by adding slices of fruits like oranges, lemons, strawberries, or cucumbers. It gives your water a refreshing flavor without added sugars.
- Hydrating Snacks: Eat water-rich foods like watermelon, grapes, and cucumber slices. They're not only tasty but also help keep you hydrated.
- Sports Drinks: On extremely hot and sweaty days or after vigorous physical activity, sports drinks can help replenish electrolytes lost through sweat. However, they can be high in sugar, so use them in moderation and mainly after you've exercised for an hour!
- Freeze Fruit Pops: Create your own healthy popsicles by freezing water with 100% fruit juice or fruit puree in ice pop molds or in ice cube trays with popsicle sticks.
- Coconut Water: Coconut water is a natural electrolyte-rich drink that can help you rehydrate. It has a mild, tropical flavor kids often enjoy.
- Set a Timer: Sometimes, kids get so caught up in playing that they forget to drink. Set a timer on your phone or ask a parent to remind you to take water breaks every 30-60 minutes when you're outside in the heat.
- Use a Straw: Some kids find it more fun to drink through a straw. You can use reusable straws to reduce waste.
- Hydrate Before Activities: If you know you'll be playing outside or doing sports, start drinking water before you start. This way, you're already hydrated when you begin.
- Avoid Sugary Drinks: While the occasional juice or soda is okay, it's best to limit these drinks because they even can make you thirsty and lead to sugar crashes.
- Milk: Milk is an excellent source of hydration and provides essential nutrients like calcium and vitamin D. Choose plain or flavored low-fat milk, or a dairy-free alternative if you're lactose intolerant. Chocolate milk is a favorite for rehydrating.
- Soup and Broth: On cooler summer or fall days, a cup of broth-based soup, like chicken noodle soup or vegetable soup, can help with hydration and provide essential nutrients.
- Smoothies: Blend up your favorite fruits into smoothies. You can add yogurt or milk for a refreshing and hydrating treat. You can even include some spinach or kale for added nutrition.
- Water Balloon Fight: Turn staying hydrated into a game! Host a water balloon fight with friends to cool off while having fun.
- Water Gun Fun: Water guns are another exciting way to stay cool while getting fluids. Just be sure to refill your water gun and your water bottle!
- Set Up a Hydration Station: Create a designated area in your backyard with water and hydrating snacks where you can take breaks while playing.
- Educate Your Friends: Share what you've learned about hydration with your friends. Remind them to drink water, too!
- Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body feels. If you start to feel thirsty or tired, take a break and have a drink.
- Parental Guidance: It's essential to involve your parents or caregivers in your hydration plan. They can help you choose the right drinks and snacks and ensure you're staying hydrated, especially on extremely hot days.
Staying hydrated on hot days is essential for keeping your body healthy and happy. With these fun and tasty hydration tips, you can enjoy playing outside or exercising indoors to the fullest, while keeping cool and energized. Remember to listen to your body, recognize the signs of dehydration, and make drinking water a fun and regular part of your day. Whether you're running around with friends, playing sports, or simply relaxing in the sun, staying hydrated will help you make the most of those sunny summer days!
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