Hydration is extremely important for the proper functioning of all organs of the body as water serves as the body’s solvent, reactant, lubricant, temperature regulator, and provider of dietary minerals. Thus, constant replenishment of the fluids lost through the kidneys, skin, lungs and bowels, is necessary.
When the amount of water ingested is not enough to balance the amount of water that the body requires for proper functioning, the body is said to be in a state of dehydration.
Young children are more prone to dehydration than adults. In fact, according to a study on hydration by the Food and Nutrition Research Institute of the Department of Science and Technology (FNRI-DOST), 8 out of 10 Filipino school children are not getting enough fluids to keep them hydrated and healthy.
During periods of play, sports and physical exercise, children may not immediately feel the sensation of thirst (which is the first symptom of dehydration), and thus fail to drink water or beverages to replace the body fluids lost. They also tend to postpone drinking even when they feel thirsty because of lack of time and opportunity to get a drink as they are so engrossed in their kiddie activities. For younger children, they cannot or do not know how to articulate their need to drink while, for others, lack of access to a thirst quencher is often the case.
Depending on its severity, dehydration can have serious adverse effects on young children.
It brings about the usual symptoms such as dry lips and mouth, cold and dry skin, sunken eyes, highly colored urine and less frequent urination, tiredness, headache, and dizziness. When dehydration becomes long-term, physical and mental performance suffers, thus may limit children’s academic and physical development, including their social interaction with other children and adults. Some studies have shown that even mild dehydration in children affects mood and cognition. Children who are more dehydrated may have poorer memories.
Contrary to popular belief that everyone needs at least 8 glasses of water a day to keep hydrated, individual fluid requirements vary depending on factors such as age, sex, level of physical activity, extent of exposure to extreme heat, and medical conditions such as diarrhea and other diseases that lead to loss of body fluids.
It is estimated that, under ordinary circumstances, school age children should take a least 5-7 glasses of water and other fluids a day, in addition to the water that they get from food. For teenage boys, at least 9-10 glasses would ordinarily be enough, and for girls, at least 7-8 glasses would suffice. In cases of heavy physical exertion and exposure to extreme heat, however, their fluid requirement is greatly increased.
In the Philippines, heat index (or the level of heat felt by the human body based on air temperature and humidity) during the driest season can soar to as high as 51.7°C, just like what Dagupan City in Pangasinan experienced a few weeks ago.
Adults, particularly mothers and other care-givers, should take measures to make sure that their children and wards are properly hydrated. Here are some of the habits that they should adopt:
They should be fully informed of the value of proper hydration, especially in children, and the harm that even mild dehydration may likely cause.
They should inculcate in their children the habit of drinking water and other fluids even if they are not thirsty.
They should feed their children with fruits and vegetables that are excellent sources of water too such as watermelon, pineapple, cooked squash and cabbage.
They should make water and other nutritious beverages readily available and easily accessible in the home and regularly included in the children’s lunch boxes.
They should advise the children to drink often in school — at recess time, before, during and after play or sports and, again, before going home, most especially in hot weather.
They should provide drinks with electrolytes (such as sports drinks) in cases where sweating is excessive as in heavy sports and prolonged stay under the sun. This is to ensure that both water and electrolytes lost are duly replenished.
They should offer the children with beverages that they like, as long as they are nutritious, since the taste of plain water and the enforced habit of drinking it is not appealing to most kids. The truth is that water is not the only source of hydration but also drinks and foods which contain water.
They should always ask the children, “#UHAWareyou?”
#UHAWAreYou? is a campaign that has been launched to help increase the awareness about the hydration situation in the Philippines. #UHAWAreYou encourages parents to check on their kids’ state of hydration and take measures to make sure their child intakes the right amount of fluids possible through various ways. All beverages and food with water can help us hydrate, and in times when children want to drink something more interesting than water, parents can offer them drinks that will make hydration more satisfying and still ensure that they are well-hydrated every day.
To avoid uhaw, always check on when was the last time you had your kids drink. Follow #UHAWareyou on social media for more updates on this campaign. INQUIRER.net BrandRoom/LA