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kids and heat

Kids and heat: How to keep them healthy, hydrated

Pediatrician also addresses vacation constipation and ticks and Lyme disease.

Editor’s note: This column on kids and heat was originally published in summer 2019, when kids had group activities that they don’t have this year. However, the medical advice about heat and hydration remains the same.

Sports camps and summer practices for fall sports are fantastic ways for kids to hone sports skills, learn teamwork, get healthy exercise and work toward goals. It can also be easy to become dehydrated and overheated through fluid loss from excessive sweat and sun.

It is possible to prevent dehydration and overheating with knowledge and a little preparation.


Talk to kids about the signs of dehydration. This can include dry mouth, few tears, dry cool skin, decreased or dark urine. Severe dehydration includes irritability, sunken eyes, lethargy and can lead to death. Dehydration can be prevented by remembering to bring a water bottle and take frequent water breaks. The goal is to have light- or medium-colored urine and to generally feel well.

Heat stroke

Sun exposure during sports camps and training can also lead to overheating. The signs of heat stroke can include dizziness, nausea, headache, fatigue and vomiting. Preventing heat stroke is the goal, but if your child starts to feel any of these symptoms it is important that they get to a shady, cool area and drink water.

Tips to prevent heatstroke:

  • Bring a water bottle and drink frequently.
  • Wear a hat.
  • Take breaks and go into the shade.
  • If possible it’s best avoid being out during the peak heat times of 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Other ways to cool off on the field:
  • Bring a thermal water bottle (like a Hydroflask or a Thermos) that can keep ice water cold, or freeze your water bottle the night before.
  • Bring a bandana or small fabric that your child can pour the cold water onto and put on their face and neck.
  • Use a battery-powered mini-fan.

Finally, If you are concerned, talk to your child’s sports coach about building cooling breaks into the program.

More pediatrician’s tips for a healthy, happy summer

Question: We’re going on a family vacation, and without fail, when my kid leaves home he will not poop. How can I gently encourage regular bowel movements when away from home?

Answer: Many children experience constipation, and it is a common cause of abdominal pain, cramps and soiling. Constipation occurs for many reasons including lack of dietary fiber, habitual stool withholding and dehydration. It can also be a response to environmental changes — including vacation. The vacation combination of dietary changes, schedule changes and new bathrooms can create a perfect constipation storm. The good thing is that much of this is preventable. Anticipating constipation is half the battle.
Here are some tips to help you have a wonderful and tummy-ache-free vacation:

  • Remind your child that eating fruits and vegetables every day helps you avoid hard poop.
  • Travel with a water bottle and stay hydrated.
  • Encourage your child to sit on the toilet twice a day. Give them ample time and a book (or an iPad — it’s summer, right?!?)
  • Encourage physical activity.

If your child is being treated for chronic constipation, it is important to bring all their medication and fiber supplements with you when you travel. Depending on where you go, they may not be available for purchase. Also, if your child is complaining of abdominal pain, has pain with movement, fevers or vomiting, it is important that they be seen by a physician.

Question: Should I worry about ticks and Lyme disease?

Answer: Summer is a great time for camping, hiking and enjoying nature. Insect bites, especially from ticks, are common when hiking in wooded or tall-grass areas. Lyme disease, a disease carried by ticks, is the most common tick-born disease in the U.S. Fortunately, it is rare in Washington state with fewer than 10 cases reported each year. Typical symptoms include a “bullseye” rash along with fever, headache and muscle pain. Lyme disease can be treated with antibiotics, but left untreated it can cause serious joint, heart and nerve problems
If you are going to be in tall grass or bushy woods, consider wearing long pants and long sleeves (this is good protection against sunburn and bug bites too!)

Also, bug sprays with DEET or picaridin repel ticks, as does the fabric spray permethrin. If you are bitten by a tick, remove it immediately. The chance of Lyme disease transmission increases if the tick has been attached for more than 24 hours.

Also: sunscreen advice from Dr. Block.

Dr. Susanna Block is a pediatrician with Kaiser Permanente in Seattle. We invite your questions for a future issue of Ask the Pediatrician. Send them to