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We’re all looking forward to a fun and restful summer. Keeping our kids hydrated is one of the best ways to stay happy and healthy during the summer months. But how much water do kids need–and how can I make sure they’re getting enough?
The human body is around 60 percent water–so keeping fluid levels balanced is essential to good health. When your body loses more fluids than you take in, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration is especially dangerous in young children because of their high metabolic rates.
Most severe dehydration in kids is related to vomiting and diarrhea caused by illness. However, we also need to keep kids hydrated when they’re healthy–especially when the weather is hot. So keep those water bottles handy during the school day and all summer long.
What Are The Causes of Dehydration in Children?
Most severe dehydration in children is related to illness. However, keeping kids well-hydrated should be a priority even when they’re not sick. The leading causes of dehydration in children include:
- Vomiting and diarrhea (often related to a viral illness)
- High fever
- Sore throat or other symptoms that make drinking unpleasant.
- Hot weather
- Strenuous physical activity
What Are the Signs of Dehydration in Children?
Babies and young children can’t communicate their symptoms, so it’s essential to watch for signs of dehydration, especially when they’re sick. Symptoms include:
- Dry skin, tongue, and lips
- Rapid breathing
- Fewer wet diapers
- Crying without tears
- Sunken soft spot on an infant’s head
- Sunken eyes
- Lethargy/low energy
Signs of dehydration in older children include:
- Extreme thirst
- Less frequent urination
How Much Water Should My Child Drink Each Day?
The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends introducing babies to water at around six months old. Most of their fluids will still come from breast milk or formula at that age. However, it’s an excellent time to get your child used to the taste of water. The AAP recommends 4 cups of water or milk each day for children ages 1 to 3; 5 cups per day for children ages 4 to 8; and 7 or 8 cups for older children and teens. If your child is participating in a sport or another outdoor activity, they should drink two cups of water every 20 minutes.
What Should I Do If I Think My Child Is Dehydrated?
If your child has mild dehydration, you can usually help them rehydrate at home. If symptoms become more severe, call your pediatrician.
- Breastfeed babies as normal if they have signs of mild dehydration related to vomiting or diarrhea.
- Gradually increase fluids and food.
- Make sure your child is resting while you restore fluids.
- Talk with your pediatrician about adding an unsweetened electrolyte solution.
- Avoid sugary sports drinks.
When Is It Time to Call My Pediatrician for Dehydration Symptoms?
Call your pediatrician if your child:
- Has diarrhea for more than 24 hours
- Does not have wet diapers for eight hours or longer
- Is lethargic
- Refuses fluids for more than a few hours
- Has vomit that is bright green, red or brown
- Has signs of heat exhaustion
How Can I Help My Child Stay Hydrated This Summer?
Pediatricians agree: water is best when it comes to staying hydrated. But if drinking water is a chore, you can infuse a little fruit to make it more fun. Some tips for keeping kids hydrated during the hot summer months include:
- If participating in physical activity, they should hydrate before the event and take a water break every 20 minutes.
- Keep plenty of fruits and vegetables on hand for snacking–their natural water content makes them the perfect summer snack.
- For younger kids, mix in a splash of juice if they resist water on its own.
- Be a role model for your kids by making water your beverage of choice.
- Make sure everyone has a reusable water bottle they love. Take your water bottles everywhere.
- Make water easily accessible in your home. Leave a pitcher on the counter all summer long or have an easy-to-use dispenser.
- Avoid keeping sugary drinks at home. Make water the most accessible choice.
Water is life–and staying hydrated from childhood through your senior years is one of the best ways to stay healthy. At Loudoun Pediatric Associates, we love helping families create good habits–including drinking plenty of water. If you need additional tips, talk with your practitioner at your next visit or reach out to our office for support.