Dear Miss School Manners:
Last year, my 10-year-old daughter, Euclidea May (not her real name), had a P.E. teacher who wouldn’t let kids drink water during class, even when exercising in hot conditions. The teacher claimed children don’t need water while exercising. Is this true? Euclidea had coughing fits because her throat was so dry. She also frequently got side cramps. With the new school year starting, I’m starting to worry all over again. Signed, Concerned in Concord
Dear Concerned: Wow. That’s not only wrong, it’s dangerous. You need to step up and advocate for your child, and this may help: you’ll have the backing of the American Academy of Pediatrics…
(Read more after the jump. Or write to Miss School Manners now.)
…which says in no uncertain terms that children should be well-hydrated before beginning prolonged physical activity, and that during the activity, “periodic drinking should be enforced.” Pediatricians suggest children who weigh 90 lbs. or less down 5 oz. of water for every 20 minutes of exercise – 9 oz. for one weighing 130 lbs. – even if they don’t feel thirsty. So, Euclidea either needs to take a water bottle out to P.E. or run those laps past a drinking fountain to stay hydrated.
Dehydration can be very serious. Symptoms include stomach and leg cramps, fatigue, disorientation and dizziness. A major consequence of dehydration, particularly in hot climates, doctors say, is an “excessive increase” in core body temperature, which can lead to serious heat-related illness.
Try talking to the teacher. If you think it might be helpful, tote backup material from the American Academy of Pediatrics’ Web site such as this statement on the prevention of exercised-induced dehydration. Don’t be confrontational – that never helps – but often in issues such as these, there are other concerns at work. Errant water bottles may be contributing to a campus trash problem, for example, so it’s important to be open to alternative solutions. But this is a serious issue that affects not just Euclidea but her classmates too, so if the teacher won’t listen, seek help from the school nurse or principal.