H2O: What Parents Need to Know
More than half of children and teens do not drink enough fluids. Deb Lonzer, MD, shares some helpful tips to incorporate and maintain healthy drinking habits so your kids stay hydrated.
By: Deb Lonzer, MD
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More than half of children and teens don’t drink enough fluids — and nearly a quarter do not drink plain water at all, according to a recent Harvard School of Public Health study. But keeping kids hydrated is essential to their health and well-being, especially when they’re active in playing sports or spending time in hot, humid weather.
A: How much water kids should drink depends on their age, weight and physical activity. However, it’s a good rule of thumb: five to 10 8 oz. glasses of water a day puts your child in optimal range for staying hydrated.
A: To remain consistently hydrated, it’s a good idea for your child to drink water in regular intervals versus consuming large quantities all at once.
However, it might not be so obvious for your child that he or she needs water. They should not wait to feel thirst. By the time they’re thirsty, they’re already dehydrated. Dehydration sets in when the fluids lost through breathing, sweating and urination are not adequately replenished.
A: Short-term effects include muscle cramping, fatigue, headaches, irritability, poor physical performance and reduced concentration. But there are also long-term effects, such as altered brain development, difficulty thinking clearly, and trouble doing well in school.
A: For long-term health, make drinking water a part of your child’s daily routine so it becomes a natural habit. Follow these 3 tips:
Introduce it early – At six months, give infants water instead of juice to help them grow accustomed to the flavor.
Make it easy – Use reusable water bottles to fill up with tap water throughout the day to easily keep track. (Tap water might be preferable to commercial bottled water in plastics, which contain bacteria.)
Remind your teens – Encourage them to drink 15-20 ounces of water before and after sports and outdoor activities.
A: Drinking water is the very best way to hydrate. While sports drinks can quickly rehydrate and replace electrolytes after rigorous physical activity, they contain sugar which can remove water from the system and should therefore not be a primary source of hydration.
A: Here are a few simple strategies to make water more appealing:
Up the fun factor – Give kids something exciting to drink out of (think: curly straws, reusable bottles with their favorite characters).
Add natural sweetness – Try tossing in apples, strawberries or lemons for a variety of flavors.
A: When it comes down to it, encourage kids to drink the water that is available to them. Water fountains seem to have gone out of favor, but we have to remember they’re there for a reason.