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Dehydration in children
A simple guide to what causes dehydration, the symptoms of dehydration, how to prevent it, and what to do if your child has severe heat stroke or heat exhaustion

What causes dehydration

Exposure to high temperatures, direct sun and high humidity without sufficient rest and fluids can lead to dehydration.

Why children face a greater risk of dehydration

A child’s body surface area makes up a much greater proportion of his overall weight than in adults, which means children face a greater risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion.

It’s important to remedy dehydration straight away, as left alone it can lead to serious conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Signs of dehydration:

Early signs of dehydration include fatigue, thirst, dry lips and tongue, lack of energy and feeling overheated.

But if children wait until they feel thirsty, chances are they’re already dehydrated. Thirst doesn’t really kick in until a child has lost 2% of his or her body weight as sweat.

If your child’s urine is dark in color, rather than clear or light yellow, he may be dehydrated.

How to prevent dehydration:

Simply making sure that your child gets used to drinking water regularly will ensure that dehydration doesn’t reach a dangerous level. Untreated dehydration can lead to painful cramps of the abdominal muscles, arms, or legs.

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke

Symptoms of heat exhaustion

Symptoms of heat exhaustion are dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches, weakness and muscle pain.

Symptoms of heat stroke

Heat stroke can be recognised by a high temperature with nausea and vomiting, seizures, disorientation or delirium, lack of sweating, shortness of breath, and can lead to unconsciousness.

Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke require immediate care. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that left untreated can be deadly. Any child with heat stroke should be taken straight to hospital.

If a child is dehydrated due to diarrhoea or vomiting, seek medical help.

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