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The Importance of Summertime Hydration

Posted on Jul 09, 2018

Joseph Perno, M.D.

When summertime rolls around in Florida, you hardly need a news bulletin to let folks know. The searing temperatures and ample humidity make it all too clear. But that doesn’t stop the outdoor fun. Joseph Perno, M.D., medical staff affairs officer and pediatric emergency medicine physician at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital has some advice on keeping your kids hydrated in the summer heat.

With the intense summer heat and humidity and many outdoor camp activities, how can children stay hydrated?

Hydration is one of the most important things to help avoid heat exhaustion or heat stroke. It is important to remember that by the time you are feeling thirsty, you are already mildly dehydrated. It is important to drink before, during and after a sporting activity.

A good regimen is: You must pre-hydrate before exercise/heading outside ideally with three 8-ounce cups of water or sports drink two hours before exercise then two cups 15 minutes before exercise and then one cup every 15 minutes during exercise.

What should people be drinking: water or sports drinks?

Typically, if exercise is less than 60 minutes then water is adequate for hydration or re-hydration. If exercise is particularly intense or lasting longer than 60 minutes, a sports drink should be considered since it has important electrolytes.

Salt is probably the most important electrolyte that needs to be replenished, so if you are rehydrating with water, make sure to include some salt in your diet. Most sports drinks will contain adequate amounts of salt, glucose and potassium.

Please remember that sports drinks are good for people who are exercising or suffering from a stomach virus; otherwise they contain significant “empty” calories that can lead to obesity in children who are not active. The same is true for fruit juices.

What about sodas or other soft drinks?

Many sodas contain caffeine. Caffeine is a mild diuretic meaning that it will make you urinate. These are not helpful for keeping hydrated as you will urinate out as much as you are taking in.

Sodas without caffeine are better but are full of sugar. Also, the carbonation in most sodas will fill you up, limiting the amount of fluid you are able to take in. When combating dehydration, it is best to stick with water or sport drinks. Sodas should be saved for an occasional treat as they have no nutritional value.

Before we go, let’s talk about the “pee test.”

The pee test refers to the color of your urine. A person who is well hydrated should have urine that is light in color similar to lemonade. If you are dehydrated, your urine will be dark, sometimes even orange typically with a strong smell. Kids, especially older ones, should be taught to look for this and encouraged to drink more liquids until their “pee” is light yellow.

This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.

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