Summer brings outdoor playtime, so just a word of caution before you set them free for day camp, hiking and especially sports: Make sure they drink enough water! All that exertion and sweat means your child loses fluids, and it doesn't take long for dehydration to set in. Teach your child about good hydration in the midst of his summer adventures, but also know that kids are kids and sometimes you literally have to stand over them to make sure they drink!

Sparkling water is not best. According to a report on MSN, "high consumption [of sparkling water] can potentially contribute to issues like dental erosion and acid reflux in certain individuals." So simply model drinking plain water and offer plain water to your kids at breakfast, lunch and dinner.

HEAT STROKE

In a study published in Forensic Science, Medicine and Pathology, researchers found that a 1-year-old child can suffer from heat stroke or worse if he’s left alone for 105 minutes or longer without hydration.

“Fortunately, severe dehydration is uncommon,” says Joseph H. Wandass, III, M.D., Ph.D., with St. Thomas Medical Partners. “However, when it does occur in children, it’s associated with extreme exercise in hot climates without adequate access to fluids.”

Meanwhile, mild dehydration can occur in one hour's time or less in hot Tennessee weather or with vigorous exercise. This can happen to young kids caught up in play activities. “They may not recognize thirst signals since they can be very involved in playing and can become dehydrated more easily unless they’re carefully watched,” Wandass says.

“If the child is not removed from the environmental stressors, it can quickly progress from moderate to severe dehydration,” Wandass warns. “Heat-related injury can occur even without severe dehydration being present due to elevation of core body temperature,” he adds.

DEHYDRATION SYMPTOMS

While the symptoms of dehydration in kids differ depending upon the age of the child, Wandass says different levels of dehydration look like this in kids of all ages:

  • Mild: Child is thirsty, alert and somewhat restless. Child may also have sunken eyes; dry mouth; reduced urine output with a darker color; rapid and weak pulse; quick breathing; lack of tears; and nausea. The soft spot on a baby’s head may be sunken.
  • Moderate: Mild dehydration symptoms plus the child is restless, lethargic and irritable to touch. Older children can still be alert but feel faint when attempting to stand up.
  • Severe: Symptoms of moderate dehydration plus the child is limp; cold; sweaty; has dark-colored extremities; muscle cramps; is lethargic or unconscious; eyes are grossly sunken; sometimes undetectable pulses.

Wandass says simple dehydration will not cause a fever. However, if the child has an environmental heat-related cause for it or an infection, an increase in body temperature can occur.

DRINK UP!

So what can you do? Enforce periodic drinking every 20 - 30 minutes for your hard-playing kids even if they don’t complain of thirst.

While the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends water as the preferred beverage for children and adolescents, Wandass says older children doing strenuous exercise may benefit from commercial sports drinks containing electrolytes. “This does NOT include so-called energy drinks which can be harmful,” he adds.

GET A COOL WATER BOTTLE!

You can find ways to entice your kids to drink more water. Often, a change in the bottle is all you need. Here are a few of our faves:

Aqua Zinger
thegrommet.com
$24.95

If your child is one who turns his nose up at plain water, add natural flavor by way of fresh fruit. This stainless steel bottle includes a unique bottom chamber that allows you to grind up the fruit with the cap. Be creative with different combinations of fruits.

Contigo Couture 20-Ounce Water Bottle
gocontigo.com
$19.99
This new "thermalock" vacuum-insulated stainless steel water bottle keeps drinks cold for 24 hours. The lid is tethered to the bottle so your child won't lose it. Comes in fresh designs.

Contigo Snack Hero Drink & Snack Tumbler
gocontigo.com
$12.99
This 2-in-1 water bottle features a leak-proof spout and a four-ounce snack holder cleverly stacked on top. Even when the spout is open and the bottle gets kicked over, no liquid comes out. The spout shield protects the mouthpiece from dirt and germs when you close it up and the straw detaches from the lid and twists apart for easy cleaning.

Hidrate Spark Smart Water Bottle
hidratespark.com
$54.95
This high-tech bottle will blink when it's time to drink more water via a battery-operated sensor. Download the accompanying app to keep track of sips. You may be amazed at how much — or how little — you drink in a day.