Deyhdration is often not considered a serious medical condition, except in reference to lesser-developed Third World nations. Yet an estimated 500 children in the United States die annually from dehydration, and over 50,000 are hospitalized due to dehydration in combination with other diseases. While children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults when exercising in the heat, kids can become dehydrated throughout the year at a variety of activity levels.

Therefore children (and adults) should take actions to stay properly hydrated throughout the day to maintain proper health and well-being. Many experts recommend 8 or more servings (8-10 oz. each) of water for adults, however these guidelines are applicable to children as well. Active children can lose up to two quarts of water during the day, so their bodies need to be replenished throughout the day as well.

The following tips will help you and your family achieve optimal fluid intake in a variety of situations.

Start a Good Habit – Drink Water Throughout Each Day

Begin and end each day with water. Your body loses water while you sleep, so drink a cup or two before bed and again when you wake up.

Start drinking water before you feel thirsty – Feeling thirsty is your body’s equivalent of a “low fuel” light for water.

Drink plenty of water throughout the day. Start carrying a bottle of water with in the car while you are commuting or running errands.

Freeze a partially full bottle of water the night before a trip and fill it with more bottled water before you leave and you’ll have instant chilled water all day long.

Keep a bottle of water on your desk, take water breaks rather than coffee breaks.

Don’t substitute beverages with alcohol or caffeine for water. Caffeine and alcohol act as diuretic beverages and can cause you to lose water through increased urination.

Give kids a squeeze bottle so they can have water at school lunch, in the afternoon, or whenever.

Fruits and vegetables with high water content count toward your daily total, and are often chosen by children over regular water.

More Activity Means More Water

Proper hydration should always start before an activity.

Once you start exercising, drink water throughout your workout. Keep a bottle of water with you and take frequent water breaks.

Have your child take a quick water break of 6-8 oz. (equivalent to 7-8 “gulps”) every 15-20 minutes when playing outside, or when it is convenient during an organized sports activity.

Older children who practice for organized sports should drink during practice the same way they would drink during competition.

Give your kids a sports drink to prevent fatigue and dehydration. Studies show that lightly sweetened, flavored, non-carbonated beverages such as sports drinks do a better job than water of preventing dehydration.

Don’t expect the coach or other adult supervisors to provide the beverages for your child.

Cold & Flu Season

Common colds and the flu frequently lead to dehydration. Any illness with symptoms of nausea or diarrhea can also lead to dehyrdation if not monitored. Keep a large bottle of water next to your bed so you can sip it throughout the day without having to get up.

Cool water not carbonated beverages or sports drinks is the best fluid for keeping hydrated. Cool water is absorbed much more quickly than warm fluids and may help to cool off your overheated body. For children, a rehydration product (not a sports drink) with electrolytes and minerals may be more effective and preferred for taste.

Know the warning signs of dehydration (fatigue, lightheadedness, headache, dark urine, dry mouth).

Melanie Nelson is founder and president of Learning ZoneXpress, a leading source of edutaining and award-winning learning tools on topics including nutrition education life skills, and child development. Contact Melanie at (888) 455-7003 or visit

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