Monday, January 16, 2012

Avoiding, treating dehydration on a hike

Make sure children drink water when hiking, as they will dehydrate more
quickly than adults. Photo courtesy of Ken Kistler.
When one has overexerted himself in extremely hot or dry weather or after great exposure to the sun, the body can suddenly dehydrate.

Though dangerous in itself, dehydration can lead to additional problems, such as heat exhaustion, heatstroke and hypothermia.

Drink up
Take note: Children will dehydrate more quickly than adults. After all, a glass with a little water in it will evaporate more quickly than a glass with a lot of water. Likewise, children will use up water more quickly than a full-grown person.

Avoid dehydration by drinking plenty of water. Children need to drink about a quart every two hours of walking and more if the weather is hot, dry or cold and if at a high altitude.

Keep the soft drinks and caffeinated beverages at home. They may temporarily quench thirst, but they won’t adequately replace water the body has lost due to physical exertion. Also, let older kids carry their own canteens or use a hydration system. They’re then more likely to sip water as they need it.

First sign
Parent Rosie M., of Durango, Colo., offers this idea for getting children to drink their water:
“Sometimes kids won’t drink warm water. Fill the canteen half way up with water the night before the hike and place it in the freezer. The next morning, fill the canteen with cold water. Several hours will have to pass before the ice melts, ensuring you have cold water the entire hike.”

Thirst is the first sign of dehydration. The less clear (or more yellow) the urine is, the more dehydrated the body is. Other symptoms include nausea, headache, dizziness, muscle cramps and fatigue.

To treat dehydration, place the victim in the shade. Use sports drinks or packages of electrolyte additives for kids, children, not plain water. Don’t use salt tablets, as they’re difficult to digest.

Read more about day hiking with children in my guidebook Hikes with Tykes.