The importance of hydration for children

Hydration for children is an important subject!  Many of us may not be aware that children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults.

Children have a higher requirement of water in relation to their bodies than adults.  They are less tolerant of heat which leaves them vulnerable to dehydration in hot weather and/or when exercising – particularly if they are not drinking plenty of fluids!  Good hydration for children is paramount to enable their body and mind to function at full capacity.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) recommends that children drink at least 6 to 8 glasses of fluid a day (portion size of around 250-300ml).  However, this is age dependent with younger children requiring a smaller porter size (120-150ml).  This is on the assumption that they are also getting between 20-30% from the food that they eat!  With this in mind, the European Food Safety Authority recommends:

  • 1.1 to 1.3 litres of fluid per day 4-8 year old boys and girls
  • 1.3 to 1.5 litres of fluid per day for 9-13 year old girls
  • 1.5 to1.7 litres of fluid per day 9-13 year old boys
Encouraging children to drink

Children may not remember to drink water or fluids by themselves, so it is important for adults to provide ways to encourage a regular intake of fluid.  Having a special refillable spill-proof bottle is a great way to urge children to drink whilst out and about and certainly during and after exercise.  Providing drinks (preferably water or sugar free) at meal and break times will also remind children that they need to hydrate!  Ice lollies made from 100% juice are also a great way to hydrate your child (in moderation though, as even when iced, pure fruit juice contains sugar).  Foods that are high in water content such as apples, celery, strawberries, melons, brocolli, tomatoes, iceburg lettuce etc also help to hydrate and are tasty too!

The best drink options for children

Of course, water is the best and most healthy option!  Drinking plenty of water means there is no risk of tooth decay, weight gain or serious diseases, such as type 2 diabetes.  Milk is a good option as it contains many nutrients including calcium which is good for teeth and bones!  Fruit and vegetable juices made from 100% produce are not only delicious and highly nutritious but will also help to hydrate.  However, beware of too much fruit juice as this can be high in calories due to the sugar content which not only contributes to tooth decay but to obesity too!

Signs of dehydration in young children and babies

Dehydration occurs when the body does not have sufficient water and fluids function normally.  If the fluids lost are not replaced, then the body will become dehydrated.  Usually by the time we are thirsty, we are already mildly dehydrated.

Dehydration symptoms to look out for:

  • Dark coloured urine or no urine output for 4-6 hours
  • Crying without tears
  • Sunken eyes
  • Dry mouth with dry or cracked lips
  • Lethargy, weak and limp
  • Irritable and crying a lot
  • Abdominal pain
  • Sunken soft spot on the top of a baby’s head (the fontanel)

If you think that your child is dehydrated, then it is vital that you give extra fluids in frequent small sips.   A spoon can help rehydrate smaller children as they can steadily sip and swallow fluid from the spoon.  If your child has lost too much fluid through vomiting for diarrhoea, it is essential that the sugar, salts and minerals lost are put back as quickly as possible.  Rehydration powders can be brought from the chemist and are dissolved in water which your child can slowly sip.  For more information on dehydration in children click here

The message of good hydration for children is preeminent.  Teaching children to drink water as a life skill will help them to live a healthy adult life.

References and further reading

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17063927
https://www.nutrition.org.uk/healthyliving/hydration/hydration-for-children.html
https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dehydration/



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