Susan is a registered nurse (RN). She has more than 16 years of experience working in the healthcare profession in a variety of roles.
Every year, children are hospitalized due to dehydration. While severe dehydration is easy to see, mild dehydration is more difficult to notice. Below, you will learn what sorts of problems dehydration might cause in children and what to do about it.
Effects of Dehydration
Our body consists mostly of water. Water is approximately 75% of an infant's body composition at birth. That percentage decreases as they age and by puberty, boys are approximately 60% and girls about 50% water. These numbers make it easy to see that lack of water will affect a child.
Studies show that a mild deficiency of fluids slows brain function and response time, increases restlessness, causes irritability, and changes the child's overall functioning. All children showed a change in mood, even when only mildly dehydrated.
10 Ways to Encourage a Child to Drink More Water
There are many ways to get children to increase their fluid intake. Being creative can make it even easier. It is essential to limit sugary drinks, so here are ten ideas to increase water intake:
- Have your child carry a water bottle—a smaller size for a small child.
- Add fruit-flavored ice cubes to water on hot days.
- Use a reward system to encourage your child to drink—give stickers or a happy dance so do when given an empty glass to fill.
- Be a role model and drink lots of water. Kids copy what they see.
- Freeze fruit juice mixed with water for hot days—popsicles are always fun!
- Have a pitcher of fruit-infused water always available.
- Have some fun straws to add to the beverage.
- Serve only water with meals. This can reduce food costs, too.
- Serve many fresh fruits and vegetables: their daily intake adds water.
- Use an app to remind them to drink water. Sometimes, kids need a visual, and apps like Plant Nanny can provide the visual they need.
What Dehydration Looks Like
- The easiest way to see that your child lacks fluids is by looking at their urine. Urine should be clear to pale yellow and relatively odorless. Dark, smelly urine is a sure sign that fluid intake is low.
- Other symptoms can include dizziness, lightheadedness, headaches, restlessness, cool clammy skin, tiredness, dry lips, or tongue.
- Some of these signs will only show when your child is leaning toward moderate dehydration; others will show even with mild dehydration.
Recommended Daily Water Intake
Intakes vary by age and weight, but water can be introduced as young as six months old. At this age, plan to give them about 4-8 ounces per day. Most of an infant's required water will come from formula or breast milk.
As a child grows older, so do their water requirements.
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- A child from ages 1-3 years old should have about 4 cups a day;
- a 4-8-year-old, about 5 cups per day;
- and 7-8 cups per day for older children.
Formula for Water Requirements
Of course, there is a formula for everything. A simple formula for a child age 1-14 would be: (age completed in years + 13) x100 = Daily Fluid intake(mL). It is important to note that recommended intake varies on activity. An athlete or child involved in intense activity, warm temperatures outside, or a sick child would need increased required fluids.
While adults can freely hydrate as they want, children are dependent on caregivers to provide adequate hydration. So, while tipping up that beverage to make sure you stay hydrated, make sure your children are too.
Benton, D. Young, H.(2015, September 1) Do small differences in hydration status affect mood and mental performance?, Nutrition Reviews, Volume 73, Issue suppl_2, Pages 83–96, https://doi.org/10.1093/nutrit/nuv045
Dugdale, A. (2009, February 20). Fluid Needs for Children Made Easy: Simple Formulae for Calculating the Fluid Needs of Children. Journal of Tropical Pediatrics, 346. Retrieved from Journal of Tropical Pediatrics: https://academic.oup.com/tropej/article/55/5/346/1676797
Janine Rethy, M. M. (2020, January 27). Choose Water for Healthy Hydration. Retrieved from Healthy Children: https://www.healthychildren.org/English/healthy-living/nutrition/Pages/Choose-Water-for-Healthy-Hydration.aspx
Kristen E. D’Anci, PhD, Florence Constant, MD, PhD, and Irwin H. Rosenberg, MD. (2006, October 1). Hydration and cognitive function in children. Retrieved from PubMed-National Library of Medicine: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/17063927/
Parker MK, D. B. (2021, November 19). Current Knowledge Base of Beverage Health Impacts, Trends, and Intake Recommendations for Children and Adolescents: Implications for Public Health. Retrieved from PubMed: https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/34797556/
This content is for informational purposes only and does not substitute for formal and individualized diagnosis, prognosis, treatment, prescription, and/or dietary advice from a licensed medical professional. Do not stop or alter your current course of treatment. If pregnant or nursing, consult with a qualified provider on an individual basis. Seek immediate help if you are experiencing a medical emergency.
© 2022 Susan Sears