Summer is right around the corner and so are the activities that come with rising temperatures, including festivals and family vacations. While enjoying these activities, it’s easy for your child to be hit by dehydration. What is dehydration? Dehydration is the loss of body water greater than the replacement of it.
Hydration is essential for growing babies, toddlers, kids and adolescents. Children can become dehydrated for various reasons including spending too much time in the heat and losing too much liquid from their body from diarrhea or vomiting. If a child has a stomachache, he/she may refuse to drink enough water. That means when your children are sick, they are more vulnerable to losing water because they generally eat and drink less.
Healthy children who play sports or are active outdoors often lose more water through their skin. If these losses are not replaced, your child can become dehydrated. Here are a few tips you can use to help your child or teenager stay hydrated throughout this summer season.
- Infants under 6 months of age: Continue to provide breast milk to your child, as this will give baby the nutrition needed. If your baby is formula feeding, check to make sure you are mixing the formula with the right amount of water. Do not provide free water unless indicated by pediatrician.
- Infants 6 to 12 months: At this age, your child will rely on solid foods and water for hydration. If your child is eating solid foods, try to give food like cooked cereal, bananas or rice. Avoid foods with sugar such as sweetened cereal. If you feel your infant isn’t tolerating oral intake, you can give him or her an oral electrolyte solution (a solution that restores lost fluids and minerals), about 1 tablespoon every 15 to 20 minutes.
- Toddlers/Preschoolers: Children at this age need about 16 ounces of milk and about 2 to 5 cups of water each day (16 to 40 ounces). If you feel your child isn’t tolerating oral intake, you can give him or her sips of an oral electrolyte solution, ice chips, or a popsicle. You can even make sipping fun by having your child pick out his or her own drinking cup or use crazy straws to add to the fun. As a reminder, juice should be limited to less than 4 ounces a day.
- School-age children: Water should be the drink of choice. Your child should be drinking at least 5 cups of water (40 ounces a day). Don’t forget to provide fruits and vegetables as these have high water content and are also good sources of hydration. Fruits like watermelon or strawberries and vegetables like cucumber or celery have some of the highest water content. If your child is vomiting, start with small amounts of oral rehydration fluid (1 teaspoon every 5 minutes) and then increase gradually as tolerated by your child.
- Teenagers: By the time your child is 13 years old, he or she should be drinking at least 8 cups or 64 ounces a day. If your adolescent is bored of drinking water, give it some flavor or color. You can infuse water with fresh fruit such as orange or mint. Avoid drinks like soda as these drinks are linked to long-term weight gain.
- Children who play sports: Athletes should hydrate at least one hour prior to each activity, as well as during and immediately after the activity. Sports drinks that contain high sugar should be discouraged because they can lead to more water loss from the body, causing serious dehydration. The American Academy of Pediatric recommends 5 ounces of cold tap water for a child weighting 88 pounds and 9 ounces for a teen weighing 132 pounds. For comparison, 1 ounce is about two kid-sized gulps.
When to call your pediatrician
- Your child is not making tears when he or she cries.
- Eyes look “sunken” or if child is an infant, the soft spot on the top of the head is “sunken” or flat.
- If vomiting is persistent and/or has blood in it.
- Diarrhea is not improving after 24 hours and is worsening (has blood in it).
- Your child is under 6 months of age and is extremely fussy.
- Your child does not urinate for 8 or more hours.
- Your child’s urine appears dark (darker than the color of apple juice).
- Deep, rapid breathing.
- Weak pulses.
As a reminder, washing hands can help prevent many of the illnesses that can lead to dehydration. The best way to keep your child hydrated is to provide fluids in frequent, small amounts, especially if your child is vomiting. So as that nice weather rolls in, remember to keep your children hydrated and don’t forget to treat yourself to a glass of water as well.
– Ashima Goyal, DO, is a pediatric resident (PGY-2) at Beaumont Children’s in Royal Oak, Michigan.