Every afternoon around Central Texas, the band kids are marking their halftime performances on the parking lot pavement. The football players are practicing downs on the field. The cross country runners are setting new paces on trails and sidewalks. And the elementary-schoolers are on the playground for recess.
And it’s 100+ degrees.
We asked Dr. Lisa Gaw, a pediatrician with Texas Children’s Urgent Care, to give us some tips on keeping kids cool, hydrated and not experiencing heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
How much and how often should you drink water?
If you’re out in the sun, she recommends that at least every 15 to 20 minutes you take a break and drink water. If you feel thirsty, you need to drink water. That’s a sign that your body is in the earliest stages of being too hot.
Rather than give you a ratio of how many ounces of water per hour, Dr. Gaw likes to tell parents and kids that your urine should be closer to a light lemonade-colored yellow rather than a yellow that looks more like apple juice.
If you no longer feel the need to go to the bathroom, that’s a warning sign.
Should it always be water?
Water is great, but if a kid is very active, think about a sports drink like Powerade or Gatorade to replace the electrolytes and salt rather than just water. What you don’t need is an energy drink like a Red Bull or a Monster drink. You don’t need the caffeine. The same is true for soda.
What are the warning signs of becoming overheated, having heat exhaustion or heat stroke?
The first warning sign is that you are thirsty. You might also have muscle cramps.
For heat exhaustion, you might feel hot, dizzy, light-headed, nauseated or weak.
With heat stroke, you’ll feel all of those things, but you’ll also feel confused, possibly become unresponsive. Your body won’t be able to regulate its temperature, and your body temperature could climb to 104 to 106 degrees. You’ll stop sweating because you cannot regulate your temperature.
What should you do if you or someone else is experiencing these symptoms?
If someone becomes unresponsive or is very confused, call 911.
For less-severe symptoms, go to a cool, shaded area, hopefully with some air circulation. The person should start sipping water. Add cool towels or cool compresses around their neck, in their groin area or under their armpits to cool down their core temperature.