Hydration Nation: There's plenty to drink, but what do children need? | Kids Out and About

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Hydration Nation: There's plenty to drink, but what do children need?


It seems a new category of beverages pops up every day. Supermarket shelves abound with ways to quench a thirst, from coffee and tea drinks to diet mixes, sports drinks and even flavored or vitamin-added water. While each may cater to a specific taste preference, are children missing the key benefit of drinking – staying hydrated for good health?

Catherine McPhee, M.D., a board certified family medicine practitioner with Lifetime Health Medical Group, says there are simple guidelines to help children stay well-hydrated and many different kinds of drinks can fall within them, as long as there's enough balance of what we like and what we need.

Minimum hydration requirements for children are based on the child's weight. Parents should check with their child's pediatrician for specific recommendations. Children with certain medical conditions may also have different needs and should follow their doctor's advice.

Many children, after all, are resistant to the idea of drinking so much water in a day and therefore don’t drink enough of anything. For children, McPhee notes sometimes something as simple as serving water in an interesting container or in one with a straw might encourage them to drink more.

McPhee notes it’s acceptable to drink a variety of liquids to stay hydrated. However, while all drinks hydrate for a short time, some come with negative side effects or ultimately deplete the body’s liquids so it’s important to limit the amount of these beverages in a given day:

  • Caffeinated beverages: These act as diuretics and cause urination so it’s important to limit the amount of caffeine consumed daily, or to increase the amount of water you drink to counteract its effects.

  • Juices: Often preferred by children, these can be filling and contain a high amount of sugar calories that replace healthy calories children should be getting. McPhee recommends four to six ounces a day for children 1 to 6 years of age, and less than 12 ounces for older kids.

  • Non-caffeinated soda: “Even without the caffeine, soda isn’t something I’d recommend much of for anyone. It can contain high amounts of sugar and dyes and even the diet sodas can bother people with gastro-esophageal reflux disease because of the carbonation,” she says.

  • Sports drinks: If someone is extremely active or sweating, he or she may also need to replace electrolytes and sports drinks do that well. However, they are very high in sugar so should be consumed in moderation and are not advisable for anyone with prediabetes or diabetes.

  • Milk: Since it’s recommended that everyone consume three servings of dairy a day, McPhee notes three cups of skim milk would be suitable as a portion of the total liquid intake in a day, while also fulfilling the calcium requirement. Over the age of 2 years, skim milk is recommended for its significantly lower amount of calories than whole and has a higher amount of calcium.

For more information about Lifetime Health Medical Group, call 585/338-4944 or visit http://www.lifetimehealth.org.