Dehydration and heat exhaustion

How to prevent dehydration in children

  • Drink 12 ounces of fluid (such as water) 30 minutes before the activity begins.
  • Children under 90 pounds should drink 5 ounces every 20 minutes during the activity. Children over 90 pounds should drink 9 ounces every 20 minutes during the activity.
  • Have mandatory fluid breaks - don’t wait for the child to tell you that he or she is thirsty.
  • Children should drink fluids after physical activity to make up for fluid loss.
  • A child’s gulp equals a ˝ ounce of fluid so generally, your child should drink about 10 gulps for every 20 minutes of play.

Signs of dehydration

  • Thirst
  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Headache
  • Muscle cramping
  • Irritability
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased performance

Signs of heat exhaustion

  • Nausea
  • Feeling faint or dizzy
  • Heavy sweating
  • Rapid, weak heartbeat
  • Dark-colored urine
  • Cool, moist, pale skin
  • Cramps
  • Headache
  • Fatigue

What to do when dehydration and/or heat illness occurs

Treatment of dehydration and heat illness should take place immediately. Depending on the severity of the situation, immediate medical attention may be needed. If heat stroke is suspected, or there is any concern for someone experiencing any heat-related illness (for example a child with heat exhaustion who is not quickly improving) call 911 right away while making every effort to cool the patient.

  • Move the child to a cool place.
  • Have the child drink cool water or a sports drink, such as Gatorade (should drink only if alert, awake, and not vomiting).
  • Raise the child’s legs 8-12 inches.
  • Cool the body with water. For example, sponge the child’s head face and chest and stomach area with cool, wet cloths.
  • Fan the child.
  • Keep the child from physical activity until cleared by the doctor.

Safe Kids USA resource

  • Dehydration prevention tip sheet - PDF