Summer is here and your kids are probably like mine always on the go. Whether it’s basketball and soccer camps, swimming competitively, or just running around the backyard, it’s essential they drink plenty of fluids. Children, however, do not instinctively drink enough fluid.
Water makes up two-thirds of our body weight and plays an important role in almost every major bodily function. It regulates body temperature, helps digestion, carries nutrients and oxygen to every cell, protects organs, and removes waste.
Getting children to drink plenty of fluids is particularly important on those days when they are outside with high temperatures and humidity. Because children have limited sweating capacity, this hinders their body’s ability to cool itself. Children do not adapt to temperature extremes as effectively as adults.
Signs of Dehydration
Children who don’t drink enough fluids run the risk of dehydration. They may find it difficult to concentrate, develop headaches, fatigue easily, or become dizzy or nauseated. Signs of good hydration include:
-Urine that ranges from clear to lightly colored. Dark urine is a sure indication of poor hydration.
-Going to the bathroom regularly. Not going to the bathroom for a few hours may indicate dehydration.
Waiting until active children are thirsty to offer them something to drink is often waiting too long. Children need to consume adequate fluids before, during, and after activity. By the time a child athlete is thirsty, he or she may have already lost more than one percent of their body’s water. This can impact their performance, making their heart pump harder and cutting blood flow to muscles and skin, which reduces their body’s ability to lose heat and keep cool.
Filling up with Fluids
Water is always a good first choice. It’s the most economical source of fluid for physical activity lasting less than an hour. Other drinks such as milk, fruit juice, and fruit flavored vegetable juice mixtures can be good choices. Activities that last longer than an hour or played in high temperature and humidity may warrant drinking a sports drink.
When purchasing juice look for “100 percent juice” on the packaging. “Fruit punch” and “juice drinks” contain less than 10 percent juice. Although these products are often fortified with vitamin C, most are high in sugar and low in potassium and other minerals compared to the real thing. If you do decide to give your child fruit juice try diluting the juice with one-third water.
Poor choices for fluid replacement are caffeine-containing beverages such as energy boosting beverages, soda, tea and coffee.
Food, a Fluid Source?
While water and other beverages can supply the body with a good portion of its fluid needs, solid food also provides a surprising amount. During the summer heat and outdoor playtime, consider serving these high-water containing foods for snacks and meals: watermelon, melons, apples, carrots, fruit popsicles, soups, cottage cheese and yogurt.
Children need to be reminded to drink even when they are not thirsty. To help your kids stay well-hydrated this summer encourage them to never ignore thirst, take regular water breaks, drink fluids before, during, and after strenuous physical activity, and limit caffeine and sugar loaded beverages.