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Quick reference medical handouts used by Pediatric offices

The Importance of Water

We ve all heard how important water is for the body, especially during the summer months. But often parents are unsure as to how much water their child should take in and what would be the best sources of liquid for them to take.

We all know that water is critical in keeping out children well hydrated, but what exactly are the functions of water?

  • Helps deliver oxygen and key nutrients to all the cells via the blood
  • Helps the body get rid of toxic byproducts of metabolism
  • Regulates the body's temperature
  • Lubricates muscles and joints
  • Provides a great pathway for viruses and germs to exit before making the body sick
  • Maintains energy level and reduces tiredness

According to California nutritionist Patti Tveit Mulligan, MS, RD, young children often become dehydrated before they even sense they are thirsty due to their higher body-surface area and underdeveloped thirst detector mechanisms. In summer, when children are outside doing more physical activity and exposed to hotter and even more humid conditions, it is important that parents make sure their little ones stay hydrated. Unfortunately, some of the food and beverage habits that children develop increase their risk for dehydration, asserts Ms. Mulligan. Drinking too much soda (due to the phosphate content) and taking in too much sugar and sugary foods causes the body to lose more fluid and can bring on dehydration sooner.

Ms. Mulligan advise drinking a minimum of six to eight glasses of water a day for children 2 and older. However, children who participate in sports and play outdoors need more. In hot, dry weather, the water needs increase as well. "The best guidelines are 1/2 cup per hour while the child is awake," commented Ms. Mulligan. Remember, one way to monitor your child's adequate hydration is to check the color of his/her urine. A child who is well-hydrated has light-yellow urine. A dark color indicates the urine has to be concentrated due to dehydration.

Best way to Keep Your Child Well-Hydrated

  • Keep cool water handy for children. Keep a pitcher of iced water and cups handy where children are playing, so they can help themselves. Lead by example — children really do WATCH what parents do! Equip your children with a water bottle when they head out for their activities.
  • Encourage plenty of "wet foods." Certain foods have a high water content and can provide a great source of hydration during the summer. Oranges, watermelon, celery, lettuce, sherbet, juice pops, asparagus, grapefruit, grapes, cucumbers, are a good start.
  • Limit sodas and sugary foods. Dilute juices with 1/2 water to help provide more water and less sugar calories.
  • Encourage children to drink a glass of water with their meals and snacks. Especially encourage drinking a glass before embarking on a sports activity and every 15 to 20 minutes throughout that activity.


Patti Tveit Mulligan, MS, RD, is the corporate nutritionist for Herua Marketplace, Inc. (chain of natural food stores in San Diego County)


As a reminder, this information should not be relied on as medical advice and is not intended to replace the advice of your child’s pediatrician. Please read our full disclaimer.

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