We all know that it’s important to remain hydrated during the hot summer months when we’re sweating and actively losing water, but we should also remember that it’s important to drink enough water all year round.

Why our bodies need water

Our bodies are about 60 percent water in adulthood and as high as 65 to 75 percent in childhood, which means we need to drink a lot to stay healthy. Bodies rely on water for just about everything, from regulating temperature to aiding digestion to lubricating joints.

As a result, dehydration can lead to many health issues, including headaches, dizziness, fainting, fatigue, constipation, urinary tract infections and muscle cramps. Children are especially prone to dehydration because of higher metabolism and potential increased water losses.

For kids with congenital heart disease or structural heart defects, proper hydration is even more essential to ensure good blood flow. For these kids, dehydration can lead to inadequate blood flow to their lungs and/or body and irregular heart rhythms, which can end up being quite serious.

How much water do kids need?

The amount of water your child needs to drink each day depends on their age:

5 to 8 year olds should drink at least 5 glasses of water a day.

9 to 12 year olds should drink at least 7 glasses of water a day.

Children 13 and older should drink 8 to 10 glasses a day.

A typical glass would be 8 ounces.  Babies, on the other hand, get all their hydration from breast milk or formula, so they don’t need to drink water. However, if your baby is sick and isn’t eating, then it’s okay to give them Pedialyte or an electrolyte replacement drink.

One good way to know if your child is drinking enough water is too look at their urine. It should be clear like water, and not yellow. In fact, no matter how old you are, the color of your urine is a great way of knowing if you’re drinking enough water.

Getting your kids to drink enough water

It’s important to make sure your child drinks water before he or she is really thirsty. If kids feel thirsty, it means they’re already dehydrated; they need to drink before that happens.

The best way to keep your child hydrated is by getting them used to drinking lots of water consistently throughout the day, and making sure water — and not sugary juices or sodas — is their standard drink. You can model this behavior by consuming a lot of water yourself. If your kids don’t like drinking water because it doesn’t taste good to them, try flavored water or electrolyte drinks. Tap water is fine and may have additional benefits, such as fluoride to protect the teeth; check with your community.

For younger kids, it’s also important to think about what they are drinking with meals. Milk and water should be their primary beverages. Fill their sippy cups with water — it’s better for their teeth. If you do give them juice, dilute it with water. 

For older kids, get a cool water bottle that they can carry with them, and make it a game to see how many times they can drink the contents of the bottle and refill it during the day. There are even water bottles now that light up to remind you to drink.

If you know your child is going to have a particularly active or busy day, you can add some extra hydration to their breakfast by serving cereal with milk or fuel them up at dinner the night before with soup or Popsicles. Many fruits and vegetables — such as watermelon and celery — are also excellent sources of water.

Drinking enough water is one of the best things your kids can do to keep their bodies healthy!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Elizabeth Sherwin Elizabeth Sherwin, MD, is an interventional electrophysiologist with a special interest in inherited arrhythmia evaluation and management. She is a board certified cardiologist and electrophysiologist and specializes in cardiac ablation.

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