You can’t ban juices and caffeinated drinks but you can do so much to nudge your child in drinking water all day. By Kaye Langit-Luistro
Everyone says that is it important for your child to drink lots of water everyday. But why is plain water better than juices, coffee, or soda? Truth is, these drinks also contain a certain amount of water. But what makes water better is that “it contains no calories,” says Neil Izenberg, MD, Chief Executive of the Nemours Center for Children's Health Media, Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware. Fruit juices although packed with vitamins like vitamin C, contain sugar and calories. Too much juice intake may even cause weight problems later on in your child. Soda, iced tea, and coffee are not beneficial either, Dr. Izenberg says, because they contain caffeine which induces frequent urination, a source of dehydration in children if not replenished with enough fluids.
THE DEAL WITH DEHYDRATION
When your child gets dehydrated, “it means that the amount of water in his or her body has dropped below its adequate level,” explains Kathleen M. Cronan, MD, Chief of the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. When this happens, the body and brain’s temperature levels surge and overheat, according to experts. Children are more prone to experience this problem than adults because their thirst mechanisms are less developed.
Recent research studies show “65% of school aged children between the ages of five and fourteen, drink less water than they should.” To solve this alarming problem, encourage your child to drink water even if he or she is not thirsty. By the time he feels thirsty, Dr. Cronan observes, dehydration might have already set in. As a parent, be in the know of telltale signs like dizziness, headaches, irritability, having a dry or sticky mouth in your child, advices Dr. Cronan.
Another reason why more children today are getting dehydrated is because they have lost the desire to drink plain water, experts say. Fortunately for Nicole Erika Magay, aged 2, “she drinks water after taking milk and her favorite munchies and anytime in between, even without our prompting,” Mommy Bing confides. She knows how vital water is to her daughter’s health that’s why even in her lullabies, “it’s still about how water can make Erika fight cough, cold and skin allergies,” Bing explains.
Unfortunately not all schools have sufficient water resources. A simple solution would be for your kid to bring a jug or flask of drinking water to school. This way, he or she can drink water during class and after participating in any sports activity for proper hydration.
If your child is properly hydrated, he becomes hale and hearty and right on track with school work. Do you know that when he or she loses 2% of his or her body fluids, his or her performance of any physical and mental activity is reduced by 20%? Much worse, dehydration in excess of 3% may lead to heat stroke, experts say, a condition to which children are more susceptible than adults.
HOW MUCH WATER TO DRINK
“Determining appropriate water intake isn't an exact science,” according to the Mayo Clinic. “How much water your child needs depends on his or her physical condition, activity level, locale, and unique physiology.” That’s why medical opinions vary on this issue.
“Some scientists have studied how many cups of water are necessary to drink per day,” Dr. Izenberg explains, “and the general consensus seems to be that if we respond to our sense of thirst, we will get what we need.” There are experts who say, “a boy between the ages of 11 and 14 needs to drink 3.3 liters of water per day, and a girl the same age needs 2.8 liters per day.”
But for Dr. Cronan, drinking 1.4 to 1.9 liters of water a day (6 to 8 cups) most especially on hot, dry, windy days, is enough. If your child struggles with obesity, Barton D. Schmitt, M.D., Director of General Pediatric Consultative Services, The Children’s Hospital in Denver, Colorado, and author of “Instructions for Pediatric Patients” advices him or her to drink six glasses daily.
What if your child is active in sports? Dr. Cronan advices him or her “to drink some fluids before the activity begins…drink at regular intervals during the course of the activity and after the activity ends.” The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a guideline that children should drink fluids (preferably water) every 15 minutes during outdoor activities.
If drinking enough water becomes a part of your daily ritual at home, there is a better chance for your child to take to guzzling water, anywhere he goes.
If you still find it hard convincing your kid to drink water, try these simple suggestions to make water better tasting:
• Freeze fruit juice in cubes and add them to plain or sparkling water, recommends the American Diabetes Association.
• Mix a teaspoon of your child’s favorite flavored syrup such as Vanilla, Hazelnut, Almond, Caramel, Mint, Raspberry, or Irish Cream and another teaspoon of Maple syrup or honey to a glass of iced cold water.
• For fresher alternatives, put cucumber, lemon or apple slices in separate pitchers, add ice and serve.
If your child is active in outdoor sports and is not fond of drinking water, dehydration poses a threat to his or her health. When he or she feels faint after standing up and has little urine, Dr. Cronan advices you to consult a doctor right away. If the case is not severe, the doctor will prescribe that your child drinks more fluids, preferably water, than usual. But if he or she is seriously dehydrated, Dr. Cronan explains that he or she “may need to receive fluids through an intravenous tube or IV (tube that goes directly into the vein) to speed up the rehydration process.” Don’t worry. Dehydration is preventable as long as you drink between 8 and 10 glasses of water daily.
Bing Magay -c/o Sound Design
Barton D. Schmitt. Instructions for Pediatric Patients 2nd edition, MD. W.B. Saunders Company, 1999.
Neil Izenberg, MD, Chief Executive of the Nemours Center for Children's Health Media, Pediatric and Adolescent Medicine at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware.
Kathleen M. Cronan, MD, Chief of the Division of Emergency Medicine at the Alfred I. duPont Hospital for Children in Wilmington, Delaware, and Associate Professor of Pediatrics at the Jefferson Medical College in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.