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Friday, July 1, 2022

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Hello Hydration

As the temperature heats up this summer, families may head outdoors to beaches, pools, sports fields and playgrounds. As we enjoy being active outdoors, it’s important to make sure our bodies get the right amount of fluid, especially water. When it gets hot outside we are more susceptible to dehydration because when our body temperature increases, so does the need for fluids. We need water to control our body temperature in order to keep vital organs, like our brain and kidneys functioning, and provide the other parts of our body with lots of energy, especially during those hot summer days.

How Do I Know if my Child is Dehydrated?

Dehydration occurs when the body doesn’t get enough fluid or loses more water than what’s taken in. Our bodies can lose water from even just a small amount of activity like breathing, so it’s always important to stay hydrated throughout the day, even if your child is not an athlete.

If your child is thirsty, this is the first sign that they need to rehydrate. If they don’t take in enough water they could become dehydrated. While thirst is the first sign of dehydration, children can have several other symptoms ranging from mild to severe. Some symptoms of dehydration to watch for include:

  • Dry, parched mouth/ cracked lips
  • Dry tongue (not smooth, feels more like sandpaper)
  • Decreased urine output (with dark or bright yellow urine with strong smell)
  • Increased heart rate or very faint pulse
  • Warm skin that is not moist, cool and discolored feet and fingers
  • Dizziness
  • Severely dry and wrinkled skin that when pinched, only slowly goes back to normal position
  • Runny nose that suddenly stops
  • Fewer tears when crying
  • Moving slowly/drowsiness, feeling tired

If a child faints or has seizures, this could be a sign of severe dehydration, and you should call 911 or your pediatrician immediately. It’s important to know that some children are more susceptible to dehydration, like those taking medications for ADHD, children with diabetes, or children who have neurological conditions, sickle cell trait or thyroid disorders. In these cases parents should always monitor their child’s fluid intake and offer them plenty of water.

Young babies typically remain hydrated when drinking breast milk or formula, but can still show signs of dehydration. Contact your pediatrician if your baby shows any of the symptoms below:

  • Soft spot on their head sinks in
  • Gap between the eyelids and eye
  • No wet diaper after 6-8  hours
  • Being cranky or fussy

How Much Water Should my Child Have Each Day?

Age, body size and other circumstances affect your child’s need for fluids. Young babies take in water through breast milk and/or formula. As soon as your baby is able to crawl fast or walk, they should start drinking water when thirsty, instead of juices or other beverages. Older children should always listen to their body and be sure to drink fluids. Thirst is the first important sign to let you know how much water your child needs. Below are estimates of how much fluids each age group should drink on an average day.

  • Toddlers – 32 – 40  ounces
  • 4-8 years old –  40 – 48  ounces
  • 8-12 years old – 48 – 56  ounces
  • 13-18 years old – 48 – 64 ounces

If your child is more active or plays sports, they will likely need more water to stay hydrated. Our AllSports Medicine team suggests that young athletes hydrate every 15-20 minutes when active, and when a game or practice is over they should drink another 16 to 24 ounces.

Foods and Drinks That Hydrate

Water is always the best choice to keep your child hydrated, but often we hear from parents that their child doesn’t like the taste of water. While your family should make every effort to introduce your child to drinking water at an early age, you can consider other beverages that hydrate. For example, adding fruit to water can flavor it, and for mild to moderate cases of dehydration you can also give Pedialyte to your child. If you have a young athlete that plays or practices sports for more than an hour, you can give them a sports drink with electrolytes. Just be sure to follow the American Heart Association guidelines on limiting the amount of added sugars in your child’s drink.

Here are some foods and snacks that can help children stay hydrated:

  • Carrots
  • Apples
  • Celery
  • Watermelon
  • Cantaloupe
  • Oranges
  • Homemade popsicles (blend fruit and water, then freeze)
  • Chicken broth (choose a low sodium option)
  • Salads

Keeping your child hydrated throughout the year, and especially during the summer, can be easy. Prepare some healthy, hydrating foods in advance and don’t forget to pack cold water in your bag before heading outdoors.

Remember, if your child experiences extreme symptoms of dehydration such as lethargy, dizziness, fainting or seizures, seek immediate medical attention.

Dr. Chavez All Children's Hospital Heinz Chávez, M.D. is a pediatrician at the All Children’s Hospital Johns Hopkins Medicine Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine Clinic. Dr. Chávez received his medical degree from the University of San Carlos in Guatemala City, Guatemala and completed pediatric training at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey. He was also an associate researcher for the World Health Organization’s Epidemiological Research Center in Reproductive Health and studied pediatric endocrinology and diabetes in Germany at University Children’s Hospital, Eberhard-Karls-Universitatet, Tuebingen. He speaks English, Spanish and German.

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