Water is considered to be the elixir of life. It is nature’s gift for maintaining good health. Shouldn’t we ensure that our children have enough of it?
Water is the main component of the human body. It makes up 60% of an adult’s and 75% of a child’s body weight. As the body loses water through perspiration and urination, it is important to replenish this water loss. It is all the more important for children to do so, as the proportion of water to their body weight is higher than for adults. Let us educate our children on the benefits of drinking water and get them started on this habit early.
When should children drink water?
- Soon after brushing their teeth in the morning, to hydrate the body and activate the internal organs.
- Before, during and after physical activities.
- At least 30 minutes before and after meals; otherwise the digestive juices will get diluted.
- Keep sipping water regularly throughout the day in hot weather conditions.
"Many children avoid drinking water when they are sick. It is especially essential for them to stay hydrated, when they are ill. You can supplement their water intake with fluids containing sugar and salt," says Dr Meena Thiagarajan,Consultant Paediatrician, Apollo Children's Hospital. But, ensure you don’t overdo the sugary drinks part.
Top 10 effects of insufficient water intake:
- Results in poor urination.
- Causes dry mouth.
- Makes skin dry.
- Affects the functioning of the bowels thereby leading to constipation.
- Leads to fatigue and lethargy.
- Triggers headaches.
- Affects concentration, which, in turn, impacts mental performance.
- Causes irritability.
- Slows down physical activities.
- Causes dehydration.
In an interview with CNN in June 2015, Dr Anisha Patel, a paediatrician at the University of California, explained how in severe cases, inadequate water consumption leads to cognitive impairment, headache and nausea.
Top 10 tips for parents:
- Ensure that children carry enough water with them when they go out. You may get them attractive water bottles to make them want to drink water.
- Enable them to recognise thirst.
- While at home, ensure that water is within their reach. Place safe water jars or cans at a convenient height for children to reach them easily.
- Avoid giving them soft drinks and fruit juices containing added sugars.
- Ensure that the drinking water at home is safe and free from contamination.
- Set up alerts for drinking water - this could be over the phone or a chart stuck on the door of your children’s room. This will remind them to drink water at regular intervals.
- Children’s fluid intake doesn't have to be water all the time. Even a slice of juicy fruit or vegetable such as watermelon or cucumber can do the trick.
- Tender coconut, lemonade or orange juice can be the perfect drink to kick-start your child’s day.
- For children who are keen on chilled delights, sugar-free fruit ice lollipops are a definite treat, which will have them asking for more.
Many children avoid drinking water in school, as they are not comfortable using the restrooms, observes Dr Meena. Parents should speak to school authorities and ensure that the restrooms are clean.
Above all, set an example yourself by drinking enough water. Your children will learn from this.
How much water should children drink?
The recommended adequate water intake for different age-groups of children is:
0 to 6 months: 0.7 litres/day (assumed to be from mother’s milk or formulae)
7 to 12 months: 0.8 litres/day (assumed to be primarily from mother’s milk or baby food)
1 to 3-year-olds: 1.3 litres/day
4 to 8-year-olds: 1.7 litres/day
9 to 13-year-olds: 2.4 litres/day for boys and 2.1 litres/day for girls
14 to 18-year-olds: 3.3 litres/day for boys and 2.3 litres/day for girls
(Source: The Food and Nutrition Board, United States Department of Agriculture)
Top 10 reasons to drink enough water:
- Aids the proper functioning of different organs
- Carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells
- Eliminates toxins from the body
- Helps proper blood circulation
- Lubricates the different joints in the body
- Facilitates the smooth functioning of the muscular system
- Aids digestion
- Regulates body temperature
- Maintains electrolyte balance
- Replaces water lost during perspiration and urination