Although students are returning to school for the fall semester, summer temperatures are staying around for a little while longer. Whether students have outdoor sports practice or recess, Dr. Irvin Sulapas, a primary care sports medicine physician and assistant professor of family and community medicine at Baylor College of Medicine, offers tips on how students can stay hydrated and cool in the late summer heat.

Most essential is to keep students well-hydrated by making sure they have plenty of water breaks throughout the day, Sulapas said. He recommends packing a frozen water bottle in their lunch box so that it remains cool throughout the day in time for outdoor activities.

“Basically, if someone already feels thirsty they are already dehydrated,” Sulapas said. “That’s why it’s important to stay on top of your thirst.”

If your child does not enjoy the taste of water, Sulapas said adding slices of fruit such as lemon or cucumber can add a variety of flavor. While sports drinks also can be used for hydration, he only recommends those for students who are doing physical activities such as P.E. class or sports practice since they contain a lot of sugar.

“Sports drinks should only be used for exercise and physical activity – it’s generally not recommended for just staying hydrated throughout the day without exercising,” Sulapas said. “Sports drinks have sugar, and you need to replenish the sugar when you’re outdoors playing basketball or football.”

The ideal time for students to be outside during the late summer should be during the early morning or late evening when the weather is cooler and the sun is not at peak. Sulapas adds that they should wear clothing made out of light fabrics and light colors whenever they are outside.

It is important to watch for signs of dehydration since it can lead to worse conditions like heat exhaustion and cramps, he said. If a student is feeling sluggish, excessively sweating or complains of a headache, he recommends that they go into a cool area and take a water break before resuming outdoor activities.

“It is important to take precautions when it comes to hot weather because kids get dehydrated faster than adults and it can be problematic if they aren’t well hydrated or cooled off,” Sulapas said. “If a kid is overheated or dehydrated they can feel more tired, it can increase the risk of cramping and may increase the risk of heat exhaustion.”