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Family Dehydration

Is your child dehydrated? 5 signs to look out for.

Your child comes home from school a little bit grumpy, and you suppose it's normal: after all, he's gone from playing video games and playing with friends outside to a much more structured day, and he's back in the school "grind". But what if it’s not his shift in schedule? Dehydration can affect your children without you ever knowing it. In fact, children, along with elderly adults, are the most susceptible to dehydration.

Children are at greater risk for dehydration and are more vulnerable -- it's a simple function of volume where if your body is smaller, you have less reserve. According to surveys, just 15 percent of U.S. children 9-13 years old consume enough water each day, while children 4-8 fare slightly better at just 25 percent. That’s problematic, because even mild dehydration has been shown to cause lightheadedness, fatigue and more.

So what can parents do to prepare? First, you might encourage your child to drink water and other hydrating beverages throughout the day; we highlighted a few strategies on the blog. Also, be sure you recognize the signs of dehydration. Finally, keep an eye out for these signs of dehydration, a few of which might surprise you.

Fatigue and Crankiness. Dehydration is the No.1 cause of mid-day fatigue in adults, and for children, the effects are just the same. Irritability, fussiness and fatigue in children have all been linked to dehydration. In fact, the effect dehydration has on kids’ cognitive abilities has been widely studied. The results: Being properly hydrated has been proven to positively affect kids’ moods[ii].

Salt Craving. Dehydration isn’t just a loss of water in the body. It’s also a loss of electrolytes and salt. Thus, just like the body’s natural thirst response, a craving for salt can be a sign that we’re running low on these nutrients. In fact, that’s why sports drinks and hydration beverages like DripDrop contain electrolytes. Salt cravings common after intense exercise, when we lose salt through sweat.

Dry Skin. Water accounts for about 30 percent[i] of skin by weight, and when we’re dehydrated, our skin suffers. First, dehydration diminishes skin turgor, meaning it loses elasticity. That’s why one simple test for dehydration is to pinch the skin on the back of the hand. If you’re dehydrated it will be slow to snap back into place. Secondly, hydration has been shown to contribute to greater skin thickness and skin hydration.

Bad Breath. When we’re dehydrated, we don’t produce enough saliva[iv]. But saliva serves an important purpose; it’s a natural cleanser of the mouth and teeth. Thus, when we’re dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, bacteria is more likely to grow in the mouth. Bacterial overgrowth, in turn, is a leading cause of bad breath.

Headaches. Water-deprivation headaches are very common. Although their origin is not entirely known, it’s been hypothesized that they’re caused by intracranial dehydration and lowered blood volume, which is a result of dehydration. The good news is that rehydration may provide fast relief. One study showed that drinking water provided relief to individuals who were suffering from water-deprivation headaches within 30 minutes to 3 hours[iii].

Always remember to contact your Pediatrician regarding any symptoms or questions you may have.

[i] Popkin, B. M., D'Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews, 68(8), 439-458.
[ii] Benton, D. (2011). Dehydration influences mood and cognition: a plausible hypothesis?. Nutrients, 3(5), 555-573.
[iii] Blau, J. N., Kell, C. A., & Sperling, J. M. (2004). Water‐deprivation headache: A new headache with two variants. Headache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain, 44(1), 79-83.
[iv] Ship, J. A., & Fischer, D. J. (1997). The relationship between dehydration and parotid salivary gland function in young and older healthy adults. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences, 52(5), M310-M319.

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