Summer’s here and it’s hot, so don’t let the risk of dehydration ruin your little one’s fun in the sun. Local pediatrician Paige Perriello offers a few tips to tell whether your child could use a gulp of water and how to keep it flowing all season long.
“The first thing that kids will usually tell you is that they’re thirsty,” she says. “If they tell you they’re thirsty, you’re already a little bit behind.”
For babies, an inordinate amount of wet diapers, crying without tears and lethargy are often signs that they need to hydrate. For kids of all ages, other symptoms of dehydration include irritability, dizziness, dry mouth and low energy levels.
“Certainly some simple things can help prevent it and help people feel better,” Perriello says. “Just having a water bottle that they have full and continue to fill throughout the day is the best prevention.” And hydration 20 to 30 minutes before intense activity usually does the trick.
But just because kids are consuming liquids doesn’t mean they’re hydrating, she adds.
“Caffeinated drinks can be particularly problematic because they can increase your chance of getting dehydrated,” Perriello says. “For every soda you drink you need a couple glasses of water to compensate for it.”
Juices don’t work against the body as much as soda, according to Perriello, but the high sugar content doesn’t do it any favors. Gatorade and other sports drinks—also high in sugar—tend to be unnecessary unless a child is exerting particularly high energy levels by participating in events such as sports camps.
How much agua is enough agua?
“There is such a thing as too much water, but that mostly comes into play with infants,” she says. She typically recommends that infants under the age of six months stick to breast milk or formula, but introducing small amounts of water at the six-month mark is reasonable.
For bigger kids, there’s some disparity.
“Typically, people say to drink seven to eight glasses a day, but nobody ever really knows what that means,” she says, so a large water bottle or three or four smaller ones should do the trick. “More than that, it’s just important to think about continuing to drink water during the day.”
Shield those rays
They might whine and moan about being covered in the thick white paste, but children in the sunshine need sunscreen.
And on cloudy days, too! Pediatrician Paige Perriello says some of the worst sunburns she sees are on the beet-red bodies of kids who took cloud cover as an excuse to ditch the SPF.
“Just because it’s a cloudy day doesn’t mean you don’t need sunblock,” she says. “Clouds are a filter for the UV light, but they don’t block it.”
Limit sun exposure during the hottest points of the day, from 10 or 11am until 3 or 4pm when UV rays are the strongest, says Perriello.
Sunscreen is not recommended for babies younger than six months old, so she suggests physically blocking their skin with lightweight clothing that won’t cause them to overheat. For older babies and kids, she recommends a sunscreen in the 30-50 SPF range applied 15 or 20 minutes before going outside and reapplied every couple of hours, especially after water play.
When using a spray sunscreen, be aware that the coverage isn’t as complete; Perriello says it should never be sprayed directly on the face, but rather on the hands and then applied onto the face.
And don’t forget easy-to-miss spots, such as the tops of heads, ears and feet, she says.