Make sure kids get enough proper fluids during hot weather

Saturday, June 10, 2006

When the weather gets into the triple digits, it's always a good time for a reminder that our animals need shade and plenty of fresh water.

How much more important, however, is it that our children have plenty to drink when the weather gets hot.

Yes, unlike animals, most children older than toddler age can tell us when they need a drink, but animals don't know about, or have a penchant for, syrupy sweet drinks that may do more harm than good on a hot day.

"Adult guidance is especially important with young children," said Linda Boeckner, nutrition specialist at UNL's Panhandle Research and Extension Center in Scottsbluff. "The younger the child, the more responsibility must be taken on by the adult."

When children become more involved in sports and other outdoor activities, there is less time for rest and replenishment of body fluids, Boeckner said. And, with longer days, it's important that parents see that kids get enough rest as well as drinking fluids.

Pop and fruit juices are so high in sugar that they will be slow to be absorbed into the body, although they eventually will be. Some sports drinks are formulated for quicker absorption, she said, however, and kids are more likely to drink something that appears to be fun.

"Water is still good though," Boeckner said. "You can't go wrong with water."

Providing children with healthy, well-balanced meals also helps prevent heat-related illnesses, she said. Fruits and vegetables make great snacks because they contain a high percentage of water and help children obtain additional water.

How do you know your child is doing all right?

Children who show symptoms of a heat-related illness might complain of a headache and fee light-headed, dizzy or nauseated, Boeckner said. If so, get the child to a shaded or air-conditioned area to cool down. Try to get fluids moving through the child's body and remain watchful in case conditions get worse, she said.

Of course, if symptoms don't improve, contact a doctor. Above all, she said, parents need to remain mindful that even though kids seem too excited to take a time out from the fun, they need to be encouraged to stop for water. If not, serious problems could occur, she added.

Yes, take care of your pets and yourself when the weather gets toasty outside. But above all, make sure your children are getting all the water they need.

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