What is Dehydration?
Dehydration, which comes from the Greek “hydro” (water) and the Latin prefix de- (indicating deprivation) occurs when the body is at a deficiency of fluids. Because the body is made up of 75% water, and because water is lost constantly throughout the day as we urinate, sweat, and breathe, survival requires regular fluid intake. We replenish our body by drinking water, juice, milk, and other fluids.
The direct cause of dehydration is not drinking enough water or suffering too much water loss, or some combination thereof. Sometimes dehydration can be caused because we are simply to busy to remember to drink, or are in a context where water isn’t readily available. Other conditions may cause dehydration including diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, and burns.
Certain categories of people are at greater risk for dehydration. First, you’re at greater risk for dehydration if you’re living or traveling in a high altitude area. The elderly and children are also particularly susceptible. Children engaging in sports or particularly athletic children need to take extra caution to stay hydrated, as physical activity quickly drains the body of fluids.
Symptoms of Dehydration
Take it from us—dehydration is not something you want your kid to experience. While it may not be immediately life threatening, it is very unpleasant, and can turn a fun summer’s day into a nightmare real quick!
Initial symptoms of dehydration include the following:
-Few to no tears when crying
-General fatigue or lethargy
-Weakness in muscles
Severe dehydration is characterized by a combination of the following symptoms:
-Lack of sweating
-Sunken or dark looking eyes
-Dry, peeling, or shriveled skin
-Sunken fontanels (soft spots)—in babies only
-Low blood pressure
-Loss of consciousness
The best method of determining hydration is examining urine. Clear, odorless urine is the sign of a well-hydrated, healthy body. Colored or pungent urine can mean dehydration or could be the sign of an infection (likely the former).
Tips for Keeping Kids Hydrated
Kids are full of energy and love staying on the go. That’s why it can be hard to keep them to good habits! Sit your child or children down and let them know about the dangers of dehydration. Make sure they understand the importance of drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Inform them that drinking enough fluids isn’t just essential to staying hydrated, its essential for growth, energy, and clearing up acne, too! Here are some tips for sneaking in more fluids:
-Serve healthy beverages at every meal and snack. Get your child into the habit of drinking while eating. At least then you know you can at least count on mealtimes for their daily fluid consumption.
-“If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.” Keep to the old adage and drill this to your kids. If your child feels thirsty, it means they are already beginning to become dehydrated. This should be taken as a BAD sign and should be remedied by drinking fluids right away.
-6 glasses a day. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that children drink at least six glasses of water per day. Try to get as close to that number as possible!
-Freeze water bottles. A quick way to make water bottles and other sports drinks more refreshing? Freeze them! That’ll keep them cold and delicious come fuel-up time. Your kids are sure to love them!
-Try sports drinks. When all else fails, try sports drinks. They do replenish valuable electrolytes and can be beneficial, especially if your child plays sports. They’re also tasty and children tend to be more receptive to them.