Many of us look back at school with a strong fondness. Playing with friends, learning new things and running around the yard all day leaves us with some of our best memories. The problem with all this fun and exertion is that it can leave children vulnerable to dehydration. Topping up on H2O is often the last thing young people think about during their school day. The problem is as many adults will know, when a child is ill, maybe with a small case of diarrhea and vomiting, dehydration can have severe consequences to their health. In fact, even mild dehydration can cause a range of symptoms that prevent your child’s body from functioning at its best. That's why teaching children to drink enough of the healthiest beverage on earth – water – is an important task that parents and educators must tackle to encourage healthy habits.
You may not know that water is even more important to children than adults. That’s because children have a higher percentage of water in their bodies than adults do – 65 percent by the age of one and the brain has an even higher water content. With water facilitating just about every physical process, it makes sense the body and brain can’t work properly when dehydration begins to set in. Medical experts agree that by the time a child feels thirsty, he or she has already lost 2 percent of body mass to dehydration. We therefore need to encourage children to drink water as a habit rather than waiting for the thirst trigger to kick in.
If you live in a state with a particularly hot climate like Florida, California or Texas, be sure your child gets in the habit of taking a bottle of filtered water along when enjoying outdoor activities. However, do remember that air conditioning also dries out the body and provide extra water when the air conditioning is on.
There are cases where a child won’t drink water – and its more common than you’d expect. According to a 2015 study conducted by Harvard’s TH Chan School of Public, one in four US children don’t drink water at all during their school day.
Luckily for observant adults there are some clear symptoms of mild dehydration that can be easily solved by simply drinking water.
- Impaired cognition: not being able to focus or having unclear thoughts.
- Frequent headaches: drinking a glass or two of water can relieve the pain from a headache that can occur at the front, back, side or all over the head.
- Moodiness, grumpiness or irritability: a cross, weepy child could need nothing more than a drink of water.
- Short attention span: teachers may see that the child’s attention wanders in class. Parents or guardians could notice inattentiveness and mistake it for naughtiness.
- Dry skin and lips: drinking water and maintaining moisture in the air can help soothe dry skin or cracked lips.
- Infrequent or passing concentrated urine: low urine output arises when there is a decreased bloody supply to the urine, which occurs with dehydration. If left untreated, this can lead to kidney failure.
- Crying with few or no tears and a dry inside of the mouth.
If your child has been vomiting, experiencing diarrhea, and might be dangerously dehydrated, see a doctor immediately. However, home dehydration remedies will work for moderate to mild dehydration. It’s a good idea to keep an oral hydration solution handy just in case, but if dehydration is mild, sipping water will solve the problem.
Stay healthy and choose water
Preventing dehydration is first prize for all. Preferably, children aged 4-13 should largely drink 6-8 glasses of water a day and infants under the age of 4 ought to drink 4-6 glasses of water per day. It is important to note, although it would be ideal to provide a simple and straightforward guide to how much water your child should drink, your total fluid intake is based on several factors. These include:
- Age: Children need more water as they grow
- Body mass: Children who are tall for their age will need more water than smaller ones
- Physical activity level: Does your child regularly play football, participate in gymnastics or regularly enjoys playing in the park?
- Climatic conditions: Hot weather calls for extra water-drinking. In cold weather, indoor heating systems also dry out the air. You may have experienced the feeling of having a dry throat or stuffy sinuses in heated environments.
Tips to keep your child hydrated
- Set an example and create a routine. If you make a habit of drinking plenty of water, your child is likely to follow suit. Make drinking water part of the family routine.
- Talk about the importance of staying hydrated and ask your child to maintain a water-drinking routine, even when not at home.
- Make it fun with cute reusable water bottles. A favorite cartoon character or color will encourage your child to use that water bottle more frequently.
Since a child with dehydration can't perform at their best when dehydrated, educators are eager to help. This has led to many schools banning sugary drinks, in an effort to thwart problems such as childhood obesity, poor dental health and aggravated hyperactivity. However, prohibition alone has never been an effective strategy. Apart from educating children and their parents on the importance of drinking water, schools across the US are installing filtered drinking water fountains. Cool, clean-tasting water that's readily available turns drinking water into a pleasure. Having a filtered water fountain also eliminates concerns about lead, a reality in areas where aging plumbing infrastructure contaminates water. Best of all, choosing a school water dispenser ensures a low-cost solution.