It’s common to think about drinking water during the summer months when temperatures rise, but did you know that kids can become dehydrated in colder weather?
“Kids of all ages are doing sports activities and keeping busy all year round, so don’t forget, just because they’re inside more in the fall and winter and the temperatures are cooler does not mean that your child is safe from dehydration,” says pediatrician Dr. Pilar Bradshaw.
In cooler temperatures, our bodies lose water by simply breathing. In addition, sweat evaporates quickly in cold air, and research shows cold weather alters our sensation of thirst and can increase the risk of dehydration.
Signs of dehydration include:
- Frequent headaches
- Muscle cramps
- Loss of energy
- Dark-colored urine
A 2019 study published in the journal JAMA Pediatrics, analyzed 8,400 children and teens in the U.S. and what they ate and drank in a 24-hour period. The data showed that 20% of kids aren’t drinking water in a given day. It also found that when kids did not drink water, they were more likely to drink sugar-sweetened beverages.
How much water should my child drink daily?
Daily recommended water consumption depends on a child’s age and their activity level.
Dr. Bradshaw says, “Toddlers should drink as many cups of water a day as they are years old. So, a two-year-old needs to get at least two cups of water, a 3-year-old needs three, four-year-olds need four cups.”
For adequate hydration, kids 5-8 years old should consume 6 cups of water a day, and 7-8 cups for children 9 and older.
“And when I say cup, I mean a good 8 ounces of water. Try not to substitute juice or other fluids, water is the best way to hydrate kids of all ages,” she says.
For kids and teens who are involved in physical activities that raise their heartrate, including sports, it’s recommended that they drink an extra 8 ounces of water for each hour of activity.
How do I encourage my child to drink more water?
One of the best ways to introduce children to water is to start early and make drinking it a habit. Pediatricians recommend introducing water as soon as an infant turns 6 months and starts to eat solid foods. Babies that start drinking water early are less likely to reject it later.
Try these additional tips:
- Make water readily available to your child: Keep a sippy cup of water in your younger child’s play area so they can reach for it at any time. Older kids may be more likely to sip on water throughout the day if it’s in a colorful or fun water bottle.
- Add fruit: Make plain water visually appealing and add flavor, drop in strawberries, blueberries, orange peels, or mint or use frozen fruit in place of ice cubes. You can either buy fresh fruit and freeze it or buy it frozen. Since chunks of frozen fruit can be a choking hazard, reserve this tip for older children.
- Mix juice with water: Add a splash of fruit juice, or make slushies with water, ice, and fruit, which can make it more fun. You can also freeze juices in an ice tray and add the cubes to plain water.
Dr. Bradshaw says another way to boost children’s hydration is through the foods they eat. “Eating a healthy diet of fresh fruits and veggies, which contain a lot of water, can enhance your hydration status.”
Water-rich foods include celery, cucumbers, lettuce, tomatoes, strawberries, and watermelon. Learn more here.