Kids and teens are not drinking enough water; some not any!

dehydration symptoms in kids

So here I was this morning, pouring milk for the kids’ cereal bowls, packing lunches and filling up their water bottles for school. And all I could think about was this National Public Radio headline that popped up on my Facebook feed before the sun rose.

Got Water? Most Kids, Teens Don’t Drink Enough

Apparently, children and teens across the country don’t care for plain old H20, as more than half of all children and adolescents in the United States are not getting enough hydration.

I mean, I get that water may not be as appealing as a neon-colored liquid that promises to quench your thirst AND make you feel cool, all while you chug liquid sugar, but how has this become so prevalent?

Forget not drinking enough water. According to this study involving 4,000 kids and teens, conducted by Harvard University experts, one-quarter of children ages 6 to 19 apparently don’t drink ANY water as part of their fluid intake.

That, to me, especially as a parent, and living in a state as dry and hot as Arizona (not that you East Coasters get a pass on this one), is astounding. How is it that the kids are getting away with drinking everything but water, at least the younger ones.

Parental judgments aside, the problem, of course, is that without enough water intake, the body gets dehydrated.

As the Harvard experts note, drinking enough water is essential for body functioning including circulation, metabolism, body temperature regulation and waste removal. In other words, a child’s overall well-being is at stake here.

Yes, the occasional mild dehydration is probably not going to make a huge impact on their health, but it’s a condition not to be taken lightly.

As noted in the NPR interview, the study findings don’t mean to imply “kids are dropping like flies or that they’re very seriously dehydrated and need to go to the hospital,” notes the Harvard researcher Erica Kenney, who led the study.

But even mild dehydration can affect children’s fatigue levels, mood and possibly their ability to learn, she says.

Dehydration symptoms include:

  • Mild confusion
  • Headache
  • Irritability
  • Sluggish activity
  • Decreased tears
  • Dry skin
  • Decreased urination

In an article, Jennifer Willis, MD, a Family Medicine doctor at Banner Health Center in Verrado in Arizona, offered these tips to avoid dehydration:

  • Offer your child water every hour regardless of activity level and keep a full sippy cup or bottle handy.
  • When you get yourself a drink of water, offer it to your child as well.
  • Offer fruits, vegetables, yogurt and other foods with high water content, such as melons and tomatoes.
  • To mix things up, try offering chilled water or put a splash of juice in it, but not too much juice, to avoid excess sugar.

And, just because it’s summer, and a glorious 100 degrees Fahrenheit as I write this, here’s an excellent Banner Children’s Raising Arizona Kids video about how to prevent heat illness among kids.

Karem Colindres, DO, a Banner Children’s pediatric emergency physician, notes in the video that during the summer months, children are especially prone to heat-related exhaustion or heat stroke because of playing outdoors. Colindres says in the summer months, children need to drink more water than usual, to make sure the body has enough fluids.

She suggests that, especially before an outdoor activity or going to a birthday party, for instance, ensure your children drink two to four ounces of water and then give them an ounce or two ounce every 20–30 minutes to stay hydrated.

I had never thought about it from this angle before, but my kids and I, for some quirky reason, love to shop for cute and funky water bottles. We have quite a collection of Ninja Turtle, Spiderman and Elmo ones — some for school days, some for weekends and others just for road trips.

It’s my small way of encouraging them to drink water by making it fun – a small splurge totally worth their health and well-being.

Also read: Why dehydration can crush any workout – and how to fight it

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