It’s been a pretty hot summer… And it doesn’t look like it’s going to cool off anytime soon! As we all know, kids’ hydration can be a challenge during the hot summer months. Parents often ask us how much water kids should be drinking. Well, the answer isn’t necessarily a straight-forward amount, but rather depends on several factors. The body’s fluid requirements vary by age, activity level, fluid loss due to sweating in the heat, and state of health (for example, fevers and diarrhea both increase your fluid loss and therefore the amount you need to drink to stay hydrated). So the important thing is to be able to recognize signs that your child is or is not getting enough fluids.
Signs of Dehydration
Keeping an eye on your child’s urine may seem odd, but it’s actually a very easy and good way to get a feel for how well hydrated he or she is. Ideally, your child should be urinating several times a day and making light-colored urine. Making less urine, or dark yellow urine, is a sign that your child is not drinking enough.
Other common signs are thirst, headaches, fatigue, and not feeling well. Ideally, you should encourage your child to drink regularly throughout the day, especially when outside in the heat, and avoid these symptoms. However, if your child complains of any of these, make sure he or she is drinking enough; often children get so caught up in playing that they forget to stop and drink. Later signs of dehydration include increased heart rate and dry-appearing mouth/eyes, which can show up as a lack of tears when crying in young children.
Keeping Your Kid Hydrated
So what fluids should your child be drinking? Water is the healthiest, and sugar-free drinks are good too, much healthier than sugary drinks such as juice and soda. My children drink sugar-free lemonade, and I water it down to half-strength to give them extra water. Kids who are used to full-strength drinks may not drink watered-down versions, but it’s a good idea to start younger kids out this way and not get them used to full-strength at all!
If your child resists drinking, there are other tricks to get fluids in… Try foods that have high fluid-content, such as popsicles and jello (again, sugar-free or low sugar are best). My kids love when I freeze sugar-free lemonades and juices as home-made popsicles.
One note about encouraging fluids: Babies under the age of 6 months should NOT have water (or juice) at all, even when it is very hot out. They should ONLY drink breast milk or baby formula (prepared exactly as directed, not watered down). Their kidneys are immature and unable to adjust the concentration of their urine, so giving them water or other drinks can cause serious illness and even death. If it is hot, they are ill, or you feel they need extra fluids for any other reason, offer breast-milk or formula more often. But do not give them other fluids unless specifically directed by your pediatrician.
Does anyone have other thoughts on kids’ hydration: how to encourage kids to drink frequently while playing, or keeping kids who don’t like to drink hydrated when it’s so hot out?