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Dr. Allen Coffman

Q: My kids love to play outside but these hot Southern summers have me concerned about dehydration if they are running around in the heat all afternoon. How do I keep them well-hydrated?

A: Children do not adjust to hot temperatures (greater than 95 degrees) as well as adults. Their body surface, as a proportion of their overall weight, is much greater than an adult's, so they produce more heat during physical activity but sweat much less than adults.

Children need adult supervision in the heat and access to plenty of fluids. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you make sure your children stop their play and drink something about every 20 minutes. Children should drink at least a few ounces of water even if they are not thirsty. Sports drinks can be helpful in restoring electrolytes.

Wearing light-colored and lightweight clothing along with a hat will help your children stay cooler in the heat. Ventilated shorts and T-shirts allow heat to dissipate and sweat to evaporate, cooling the body.

Signs of dehydration in children include: thirst, fatigue, irritability, dry mouth and feeling hot. If you child exhibits any of these signs, get him or her to cool place and drinking cool water or sports drinks. Cool, wet cloths placed on the body can help cool the body down more quickly. If symptoms persist after an hour or so, call your pediatrician.

— Dr. Allen Coffman, Highland Pediatrics; member, Chattanooga-Hamilton County Medical Society

Submit your health-related questions for a medical doctor to lwilson@timesfreepress.com.

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