When the body is deprived of water throughout the day, this is called dehydration. When this occurs, our bodies require further water intake to bring things back to balance. It has been alleged that children are placed at a higher risk of dehydration, than adults. Simply put, this is because of their size, as they have a larger proportion of skin surface area whereby sweat can be lost from the body. Although it can often be challenging for anyone to be able to detect thirst, children find it more difficult to self-identify if they are thirsty which increases the risk of dehydration. This means, unless they are encouraged to drink water, they tend not to think about it. This is where parents need to step in and remind them every chance they get.
Signs of dehydration in children
According to KidsHealth, there are a multitude of indicators which can be used to ascertain if a child is suffering from dehydration. The following list is not exhaustive:
- a dry or sticky mouth
- few or no tears when crying
- eyes that look sunken
- in babies, the soft spot (fontanelle) on top of the head looks sunken
- peeing less or fewer wet nappies than usual
- dry, cool skin
- drowsiness or dizziness
What is the typically recommended water intake for children?
It turns out that there is no standard amount of water intake that is considered "best" because factors, such as age, weight, and gender cause variability in the body's demand for water uptake. Other factors such as air temperature and general health status contribute as well. But, as a rough guideline, the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, suggest that they drink anywhere between 7-14 total water cups/day.
How can I ensure that my child stays hydrated?
- If your child is not used to drinking water, it is important to slowly but surely introduce it into their consumption plan. It doesn't have to be water to start off with; in fact, other drinks or food contain water, so this may be a good place to begin. Lots of fruit and vegetables may act as an initial substitute, especially those with relatively high-water content - such as watermelon or cucumber.
- Make the drinking process fun. This can help to encourage your little ones to drink more water. This can be done with the use of aesthetic straws, cups, or travel bottles - ensure such items align with your child's favourite colour or design.
- Sometimes the appearance of water may deter your child because it looks 'too boring' - to circumvent this issue, try introducing some natural flavours to it, like berries, apples or slices of lemon or lime.
- Incentivise - it's hard for young children to see the long-term or even short-term benefits of drinking water alone. As a result, they may be less inclined to drink water. To avoid this, parents may like to consider treating or rewarding their child if they drink a certain amount of water per day (and increase the amount steadily but without exceeding the maximum recommendation). This may take the form of a star chart or a trip to the park.
- Educating your child in a fun and easy manner can also be helpful in raising their awareness and ultimately their actions. There are some books and games online which can promote the benefits of being hydrated so it is merely about finding an education strategy that works best for you and your child. A simple discussion with your child may be all that is needed to get them to realise the importance of staying hydrated throughout the day.