Ways to Prevent Dehydration

By Lauren Wanko

On hot days, we need a lot of water. But more than half of all children and adolescents throughout the country aren’t getting enough hydration, probably because they’re not drinking enough water — that according to a new Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health study.

“Some people just don’t like the taste of plain water so try to have special drinks. The ingredients of special drinks aren’t always helpful to the body,” said Dr. Robert Murphy, a pediatrician at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. “Every body part needs blood supply and blood needs water. If there’s not enough water, there won’t be enough blood and the heart won’t be able to pump what it doesn’t have.”

Dr. Murphy says since the organs depend on blood flow. If someone’s dehydrated their organs won’t work as well, the muscles will tire and cramp, brain function will suffer. People can also get headaches and feel lethargic.

“With excessive dehydration the body goes into shock. The body shuts down because there isn’t enough flow to the important body parts,” he said.

How much water should we all be drinking every day? “Good question,” Dr. Murphy said. “I don’t think anyone really knows, but certainly your normal state without extreme water loss, probably adult two to three quarts, at least two quarts of fluid per day.”

The larger you are, Murphy says, the more fluid you need. And the more losses you have — from things like exercise or fever — the more fluid you need. As for kids, “It varies on the size of the child but I think between one to two quarts of fluid a day is probably a good amount,” he said.

That could increase on a hot days, especially if kids are playing sports.

Dr. Murphy also set up a protocol to monitor the level of hydration in athletes. He says depending on the sport, some teens try to lose weight and they do this by restricting fluid so the doctor monitors their urine to ensure they’re well hydrated.

“If you’re looking at the urine, the urine should always look like water. If it starts looking dark, it means it’s too concentrated and it probably means that person is dry and approaching dehydration,” he said.

Mom Jeana Reyes makes sure her teenage daughter drinks two to three times the recommended amount of water when she’s playing soccer in the stifling heat.

“I need her to be healthy, for her own sake and her ability to play. That affects her mentality, if she’s dehydrated she’s gonna feel it — she’s gonna be tired, she’s not gonna be at her best,” Reyes said.

For kids who won’t drink water, Gatorade, Pedialyte and orange juice are safe alternatives, insists Murphy.

“And also if you’re thirsty, drink, but don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink, so if you’re active and exercising keep on drinking so you don’t experience thirst,” he said.