Is Your Child Feeling Thirsty All the Time? It’s Not Just the Heat
Moms, don't wait until your child asks you for a drink. Here's why.
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This year, several cities and provinces in the Philippines are registering a heat index of as high as 40 to 45°C. Health authorities are constantly reminding us to drink plenty of fluids because this hot weather can cause a rapid loss of fluids and, ultimately, dehydration.
Dehydration is defined as the loss of water from the body. It occurs when one loses more fluid than he or she takes in. We are all at risk of dehydration when temperatures are soaring, but our children are especially vulnerable.
Kids burn significant amounts of energy as they play, run around, and stay active the whole day. They have a higher metabolism, too, which means they use up their bodies’ stored fluid and energy quicker than adults do.
A child younger than five years old may also not realize when he's thirsty (especially when he's focused on playing). By the time he tells you, he can already be in danger of being dehydrated. According to the Philippine Dietary Reference Intakes 2015 of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute, eight out of 10 Filipino kids are not drinking enough.
Experts say, however, that hot weather isn’t the only reason your child becomes dehydrated.
Myth #1: I’m at risk of dehydration only when it’s hot.
Dehydration can also occur when you or your child suffers from an illness, such as diarrhea, gastroenteritis, fever, and persistent vomiting.
It can also happen when it gets extremely cold, but you probably won't notice the symptoms until it reaches a dangerous level. Experts say the cold can mask your body’s cues for thirst because you don’t feel like you're sweating or losing fluids.
No matter the weather or their health condition, make sure the whole family drinks enough fluids throughout the day. Train your child — and yourself — to make it a habit.
Myth #2: I drink only when I’m thirsty.
According to health experts, feeling thirsty is one of the early signs of dehydration. In kids, other indications to look for include dry mouth and tongue, tearless crying, unsoiled diapers, sunken eyes and cheeks, and lack of energy.
For grown-ups, be alert for symptoms like extreme thirst, infrequent urination, dark-colored urine, fatigue, and dizziness.
We suggest setting the alarm on your phone to remind you it's time to drink. It's an excellent way to monitor your child's water intake as well. When you drink, she drinks or vice versa! This way, you're drinking not to replenish lost fluids, but your body has "ready reserve" at all times.
Myth #3: My kids and I drink 8 glasses of water a day to hydrate.
If your family lives by this mantra, chances are you are not meeting the recommended quota. Eight glasses a day isn’t a one-size-fits-all requirement because it really depends on age.
Here’s how much your child should be drinking per day instead, according to the Philippine Dietary Reference Intakes 2015 of the Food and Nutrition Research Institute. Take note of the differences in the amount per age and gender:
There is no question that water is best for hydration. A study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, however, found that juice, milk, tea, and coffee can be additional sources of fluids. Flavored milk and orange juice can help with daily water intake. But keep in mind these are NOT solutions to dehydration and can only help add to the daily water intake. You can also give them water-rich foods like watermelon, strawberries, cucumbers, and cauliflower.
Myth #4: Dehydration is temporary and can easily be treated at home.
If you suspect that your child is dehydrated, the best course of action is to consult your doctor immediately. Don’t take matters into your own hands and just give him or her large amounts of water, as treatment would depend on the severity of his or her condition. Remember to always refer to a medical professional.
When left untreated, dehydration not just weakens the body. It affects brain function, too. That's why it's important to act as soon as you spot signs of dehydration because even mild dehydration can already impair children’s cognitive functions, including memory and attention.
Help your family develop a habit of drinking regularly. Set markers throughout the day where everyone gets their fill, and practice positive hydration to enjoy a better quality of life.