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Summertime Sinker | Dr. William Winter is a child and adolescent psychiatrist.
Will Winter, MD, FAAP
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Summertime can be fantastic. Sunshine. Running around. Having fun. But it is especially in the summer that we must be vigilant about this one thing...

Dehydration

Dehydration isn't just about someone forgetting to have a little water or feeling thirsty. In otherwise perfectly healthy young people, dehydration from excessive sweating can lead to predictable symptoms.

Headache
If dehydration is the cause, Tylenol or aspirin will not help. The only thing that will is rest and rehydration. If the headache is marked, it can take the rest of the day to feel better.

Rapid Heart Beat
Although kids running around will be expected to have a faster heart rate than if they were just sitting, when dehydrated, the resting heart rate will also be elevated. This happens because there is less volume in the blood vessels and the heart must compensate by pumping faster to maintain pressure in the system. The treatment for this is rehydration.

Fainting
The body will make its best effort to compensate for loss of blood volume from dehydration- increase in heart rate, for example. Nonetheless, sometimes the loss of volume due to dehydration is too great and blood pressure goes too low. Blood pressure is crucial to keep the brain perfused and oxygenated. When the pressure is too low, the brain will immediately stop functioning. This is experienced as loss of consciousness or, in other words, fainting.

Fainting is not a good thing. Besides fainting itself, there is another concern- what happens on the way down to the floor? Accidents involving cuts to the face, head trauma, etc, are not uncommon and can lead to other problems.

Sometimes, prior to fainting, people may experience a feeling of lightheadedness. If this happens, it is strongly recommended that they quickly sit down or even lie down on the floor- don't worry how it looks! This way, less blood pressure is necessary to keep the blood going to the brain and it may give the body another moment to adjust and compensate for the low blood volume.

Humid Days
Hot and humid days are the worst. When we sweat, as the sweat evaporates off of the skin, it takes heat with it. That's how sweating cools us off. But on humid days, there is already a lot of moisture in the air. So, the air is less able to absorb our sweat.

Well, your body doesn't understand that. All it knows is that, despite sweating, it is still overheating. So... it decides to sweat more. This becomes a vicious cycle and leads to dehydration in no time.

So what can you do to protect yourself?

Here are some ideas:

  1. Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day.
  2. Sometimes we forget to eat on hot days. Don't. Many of the foods we eat are actually 70 to 95+ percent water. Eating = hydration.
  3. Keep hot showers to a minimum on hot days. Keep them short and not so hot. (People sweat a lot during a long hot shower.)
  4. If you do take a hot shower, remember to drink a lot of fluid afterwards.
  5. Do your best to keep cool- if there is a pool nearby stay in it. If there is shade nearby, stay in it.
  6. Wear white or light colored clothing. Sun reflects off white. Dark colors/ black absorbs the light and the heat. Wear a light colored hat as well.
  7. If it is especially hot, humid, or both, sometimes spending the most grueling part of it in a cool comfortable place like a movie theater can be a pleasure. Movies aren't just for rainy days!

So remember- Enjoy the sun and the fun. But also remember to protect yourself and drink plenty of fluids!