Fluid and Hydration - How Much is Enough?
The amount of fluid a child needs depends on a number of things including;
- child’s age;
- body fat;
- physical activity and exercise;
- illness (especially vomiting, diarrhoea and fever);
- Any special medical needs (especially ileostomies and colostomies).
Children who exercise a lot need to replace the fluid lost through sweating and will need to drink more. A child who is not drinking enough will become dehydrated.
The best way of checking if you are drinking enough is to check the colour of your urine – it should be a pale yellow colour. If you pass clear, light-coloured urine regularly throughout the day, it is likely that you are meeting your fluid requirements. If it’s darker than number 3 on the Pee Chart, more fluid is needed.
If your urine is the same colour as numbers 1, 2 and 3: you are well hydrated. Colours 4 and 5 can represent dehydration and colours 6, 7 and 8, severe dehydration, therefore extra fluid is needed.
How else do I know if my child is dehydrated?
If you are not well hydrated you are more likely to get headaches and constipation, feel irritable, and have a dry mouth and lips. Your concentration will suffer and you will generally feel “off” and not at your best.
What should I encourage my child to drink?
- The best drinks for overall health are milk and water.
- Unsweetened fruit juice is okay to have at one meal each day. More than that can contribute to tooth decay
Did you know…..?
- Squash/cordial can contain high levels of sugar and are usually highly acidic which contributes to tooth decay.
- Strong tea and coffee contain caffeine which is a stimulant and can interfere with sleep, causing irritability.
- Fizzy or carbonated drinks (even “sugar-free”, “no added sugar” “max”, “free” and “diet” varieties) increase the risk of tooth decay because of their acidity.
- Drinking sugary drinks regularly can reduce your appetite for more nourishing foods and can contribute to excessive weight gain.
- Sports drinks are intended for those engaged in regular strenuous exercise. They contain high levels of salt which may not be good for your health.
- Energy stimulant drinks, even the sugar-free versions, contain caffeine at a level which can interfere with sleep and cause irritability.
- The legal age for drinking alcoholic drinks in Ireland is 18 years. Drinking a lot of alcoholic drinks, at any age, on a regular basis can lead to serious health problems. Also, binge drinking can cause a range of problems from impaired judgement to coma, particularly in teenagers.
- Alcoholic drinks are relatively high in calories e.g. 1 - 2 pints of beer or 3 - 4 four glasses of wine contain about the same number of calories as a chocolate bar. Alcohol is a diuretic. That means it makes you pass more urine and so can lead to dehydration. If you do drink alcoholic drinks, you should consume plenty of water or non-alcoholic drinks between each alcoholic drink.
What about fluid for sport?
- It is important to drink plenty of fluids before, during and after playing sport.
- Water is the best choice of fluid.
- Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink, because thirst is a sign that your body has needed fluids for a while.
- If a training session or competition lasts for 50 minutes or longer, consider having an isotonic sports drink to replace fluids.
- For more information on good nutrition for sport, including more information on fluids for sport, check out our fantastic fact sheet 'Fuel Your Body for Sports: The Teenage Sportsperson.'
Created by the Paediatric Dietitians’ Interest Group (PDIG) of the Irish Nutrition and Dietetic Institute (INDI) November 2015. Review date: November 2018
© 2015 Irish Nutrition and Dietetics Institute, INDI. All rights reserved. May be reproduced in its entirety provided the source is acknowledged. This information is not meant to replace advice from your medical doctor or individual counselling with a dietitian. It is intended for educational and informational purposes only.
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