I don’t know if you are aware of this, but in the U.K. a rather large percentage of people that are hospitalised are admitted with illnesses that stem or are complicated by dehydration. It is rather sad to think that in such a marvellous country, with all of the facilities available to us, there are still many, many people who are ignorant about something as simple as drinking water.
Children are particularly at risk of becoming dehydrated because a child’s body is less effective at perspiring and produces more heat during physical exertion. Children also tend to be more physically active than adults, resulting in a greater loss of bodily water.
As we get wrapped up in an activity or task it is easy to forget to consume enough water, especially as a child. Children can often find consuming water difficult as it lacks flavour. Here are a few tips for helping to keep your child hydrated, so they can maximise their potential each day.
- Be a good role model; the more your child observes you drinking, the more likely they are to copy your behaviour.
- Introduce a drinking routine. If your child regularly forgets to drink water, having a routine in place to ensure a glass of water is consumed at least first and last thing in the day, at meal times and pre/post exercise may help.
- Offer a variety of drinks but limit caffeinated beverages as very large quantities can have a diuretic effect, causing an increase in urination.
- If your child prefers fruit juices, try gradually diluting them with water.
- Many fruits are high in water volume so offering a fruit salad for desert or as a snack can help increase water intake. Soups and stews can also have similar benefits.
- Protein requires additional liquid to metabolise so reducing meat intake can help with hydration levels.
Older people have very similar water requirements to those of younger adults. A conservative estimate for older adults is that daily intake of fluids should not be less than 1.6 litres. Unfortunately, many older people do not drink adequate amounts of water. A recent survey of water provision in UK care homes for the elderly found that most residents only consumed 2-4 glasses of water per day.
- Developing a habit of drinking only in response to the body’s thirst signals raises an older person’s risk of becoming dehydrated.
- Seniors who have relocated to areas where the weather is warmer or dryer than the climate they are accustomed to are even likelier to become dehydrated unless they make it a practice to drink even when they are not thirsty.
- As fear of incontinence may factor into a reluctance to drink sufficient water, elderly people should nevertheless be encouraged to drink sufficient water so as keep their organs functioning.
Some methods to combat these are:
- Encourage the drinking of water. As a general rule, try to avoid hydrating beverages that have added sugar.
- Snack on the right foods. Fresh veggies and fruits are good snacks, and not just for dieters. Fresh produce has a very high water content, so it’s a great way to hydrate without having to drink a ton of water. For example, an apple is up to 85% of water by volume.
- Drink constantly, not occasionally. You should be constantly drinking fluids, rather than guzzling multiple litres of water all at once.
- Avoid diuretic behaviours. This means not constantly drinking a liquid that is known to dehydrate. Culprits include coffee and alcohol.
Educating oneself, one’s family (older and younger) is absolutely essential in teaching good hydration habits. As we all know the maxim ‘It’s never too late to learn something new’.