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Oregon Family Magazine

Soak it Up!

06/01/2016 ● By Sandy Kauten

The sun is shining and your children are most likely spending most of their summer days outside—in the yard, at the park, on their bikes or in the pool. With this increased level of activity, the only thing more important than what your kids will eat on these hot summer days is what they are washing it down with.

Dehydration tends to affect children more severely than adults because their small bodies don’t produce a lot of sweat.  This means their little “engines” can overheat easily. Because children can lose two or more quarts of water each day, it is critical their bodies are replenished.

Under hydrated children can suffer from urinary tract infections, crabbiness, listlessness and a decreased resistance to disease.  Even more frightening is the idea that under hydration can quickly turn to dehydration, an acutely serious condition that can lead to death. 

The only way to beat the heat this summer is to drink, drink, drink.  Use these three simple tricks to keep your kids hydrated this summer:  

• Stay on schedule. Regardless of the temperature, have your children drink on a schedule—taking water breaks every 15-20 minutes during play.  You’ll want to be especially careful during sporting activities.  Ensure that your child drinks before, during and after these intense events.  Remember—by the time most active children become thirsty, they have already lost important fluids and electrolytes that can lead to dehydration.

• Make it a priority.  Plan regular rest breaks during any outing to focus on beverage intake. Make it a rule that your children cannot start playing again until they have had a few big swigs of fluid. Use a game or a song if there’s any reluctance.  For example, pretend you are cars filling up your “tanks” or sing a favorite song, taking a drink between each verse.  You may want to consider offering drinks before you break out the snacks… otherwise, their little tummies may be too full for fluids.

• Be prepared.  Never leave home without a few bottles of water. Freeze a partially filled bottle of water the night before a trip and fill it with more water just before you leave - you’ll have instant chilled water all day long.  Get your kids in the habit of always carrying cold water in their beverage holder when they go for a bike ride or keeping a beverage in their backpack for trips to the pool or park.

With so many beverage choices on the shelf today, which fluids should you put in your grocery cart? The beverages you put in the fridge matter, so let’s take a closer look at the choices.

Good old-fashioned water is usually the best choice for keeping hydrated. However, water can have its limitations. Because water can lack the taste appeal of a lightly flavored beverage, kids may stop drinking water before their fluid needs are met.  Add a splash of lemon or fruit juice to water to help spark the appetite of young tummies.  Also, if a child is running and playing all day, children may need a beverage that provides some energy, too. Juices, milk and sports drinks may be handy for these occasions.  

Fruit juices are typically fine for children after the playing is over. However, juice isn’t always the best choice before or during activity. The high sugar content in juice can slow fluid absorption and increase the chance of a stomachache. Consider filling a sports bottle with half juice and half water to prevent an upset stomach.  Juice boxes can be easy to grab-and-go for trips to beach or the park. On hot days, freeze them at home and they’ll stay cold for a few hours. When shopping for juice, be sure to choose a brand that is made from 100% fruit.  Many juices on your grocer’s shelves are simply “sugar water.”  Read the ingredient list to ensure you are buying a juice that is made from real fruit.  That way, your kids will be getting the vitamins and minerals that fruit juice should provide.   

Milk is also a good after-activity beverage choice.  Milk not only provides calories and the bone-building calcium that your children need, but 8 other important vitamins and minerals, too.  Milk is a perishable food, so be sure keep dairy drinks cold to prevent foodborne illness.

Sports drinks can also help replenish little bodies with energy and important electrolytes. Sports drinks often contain less sugar and fewer calories than many other beverage choices and their flavors can help to “turn on” a child’s thirst.  Sports drinks are usually only recommended for intense sports activities.  Be sure to look for drinks that are specially formulated for children.

Carbonated soft drinks are not appropriate during or after prolonged activity. The “fizz” in a carbonated beverage may prevent your child from chugging enough fluids. Research shows that even a small amount of carbonation can also upset the stomach and cause a bloated feeling during exercise. The caffeine found in most soft drinks also acts as a diuretic, causing your child to go to the bathroom more often.   This will only speed up the dehydration process.

Signs of dehydration include: cracked lips, dry mouth or tongue, darker than normal urine or decreased urine output, dizziness, headache, irritability, lethargy, nausea, pale skin, sunken eyes, sweating or tear-less crying.  If your child shows any signs of dehydration, consult your pediatrician immediately. Your health care provider will be able to determine if your child needs immediate medical attention or can be treated at home with close supervision.

By Cheryl Dolven