Dehydration is a condition that can have a significant impact on children and, if left untreated, may lead to serious complications and hospitalization. A national survey of more than 800 parents with children between the ages of one month and 10 years found that three out of five parents reported needing to know more information about dehydration, such as when to see a physician, warning signs, and treatment, if their child became sick – pointing to a greater need for awareness and education around the condition and its treatment. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it is taking in and may not have enough fluids to carry out its normal functions. Dehydration can occur at any age, but can be especially concerning for infants and young children because they may become dehydrated more quickly than adults. Parents need to understand that dehydration can happen year-round; it isn’t just associated with hot weather and loss of fluid through perspiration. Dehydration accounts for hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations each year, due to a number of illnesses that can lead to depletion of fluids and electrolytes from the body. These illnesses can range from seasonal flu to stomach flu to other viruses that occur throughout the year.
Symptoms of Dehydration in Children
As parents seek more information related to dehydration, they need to recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration and seek medical attention when necessary to avoid complications. Some of these signs and symptoms may include:
- Child is tired, restless and irritable (making it difficult to rehydrate by drinking fluids)
- Child is increasingly thirsty
- Child has a dry mouth and tongue
- Child is not urinating as frequently or as much as normal
- Child experiences weight loss
- Child has slightly sunken eyes and/or a depressed fontanel (the soft spots on babies’ heads)
- Child does not produce tears when crying
Are your kids drinking enough water? Is it really that big of a deal if they’re not? We all know that our bodies require a lot of water, and living without it for even just a few days can be life threatening. But the implications of even mild dehydration cannot only be serious, but it can often go unrecognised. Here are a few examples…
Does your child seem more tired than other children his/her age?
Is your child finding it more difficult of concentrate on school work?
Does your child complain about headaches or muscle weakness?
Each of the above problems can be associated with your child not drinking enough water. Your child could also suffer with an impairment of their cognitive and mental abilities as well, simply because they have become mildly dehydrated. It’s a much bigger deal than parents realize. When children complain of a headache, it’s often due to not having consumed enough water. Always have them drink a glass of water and wait about 30 minutes before giving them any medication (now as teens, they just do this on their own), and at least 50% of the time their headache is relieved without the need of medication. Kids just get busy doing other stuff and they don’t even realize that it’s been ‘X’ amount of hours since they actually had some water to drink. One of the best things you can do for your children is to help them develop a love for water, and the only way that is really possible is for them to see their parents having a love for water. If this sounds like an impossible task, start off slow. Start by diluting juices, and work your way up to making fruit infused water, and then hopefully a glass of ice water will begin to feel appealing. It’s not going to happen overnight, but it is possible.
Since people are not likely to carry around a scale to see how much weight loss they’ve incurred due to dehydration, it’s easier to just try and stay hydrated, watch for the symptoms and don’t over-exert yourself and that of the kids when the conditions are ripe for heat stress and dehydration. Keep that water bottle handy and let the grass grow another inch, or four.