Expert Tips on Proper Hydration

words by Dr. Jay Gillenwater, Pediatric Associates
How to Teach Kids the Importance of Drinking Water

For your body to be able to work at peak efficiency, you must keep it properly hydrated. When your fluid level gets low, either from illness, medicines you take or playing out in the hot sun, you will get dehydrated.

Dehydration can range from mild to severe, with mild dehydration sometimes not having any visible symptoms. However, your family should continue to be proactive in maintaining hydration, because increasing severity can cause worsening symptoms and can, in worse cases, be life threatening. Dr. Jay Gillenwater with Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville shares Tips on Teaching Your Kids About Proper Hydration.


Symptoms of Dehydration

Symptoms of dehydration include: Feeling thirsty; urinating less often or having dark yellow or brown urine; having a dry mouth or cracked lips; crying without any tears; feeling tired or confused; feeling dizzy or light-headed; or having eyes that look sunken in the face. Your child might also have flushed skin, a loss of appetite or a history of heat intolerance. If your child has these symptoms (see below) and you don’t feel you’ve been able to treat them at home, be sure to contact your physician to see if he or she needs to be further evaluated.



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How to Keep Kids Hydrated & Avoid Dehydration

In general, water is the best thing to drink to maintain hydration if engaged in mild to moderate exercise. If engaging in strenuous activities or if you become dehydrated from an illness, a balanced electrolyte solution will help you recover quicker. For young children, Pedialyte or similar solutions work best. Older children or athletes can also use sports drinks, however these have more sugar and less salt than is optimal for rehydration. One should also avoid drinks with caffeine, such as tea, coffee and some sodas. The World Health Organization’s oral rehydration solution (ORS) can be made at home with the following recipe:

  • Six (6) level teaspoons of sugar
  • Half (1/2) level teaspoon of salt
  • One liter of clean drinking water, or boiled water cooled

When ill with diarrhea, an infant or toddler may need half of a liter of electrolyte solution daily; while, older children with vomiting or diarrhea may need a liter or more a day. An adult may need up to three liters daily to cope. And as always, first discuss with your family’s doctor before beginning use of ORS for illness.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine, “Drink at least 16 to 20 ounces of fluids one to two hours before an outdoor activity; consume six to 12 ounces of fluid every 10 to 15 minutes that you are outside; and after going indoors, drink at least another 16 to 24 ounces, or two to three cups.”

One will sweat more on a hot and humid day, resulting in a greater water loss from the body.

To avoid becoming dehydrated when spending time outdoors, be conscious of the weather. One will sweat more on a hot and humid day, resulting in a greater water loss from the body. A coach or outdoor activity leader might monitor the Wet Bulb Globe Temperature (WBGT) to determine if an activity should take place in certain heat and, if so, how often one should take a break. Be conscious of your or your child’s general physical condition and levels of heat adaptation. To help, try wearing lighter-colored and wicking clothing.



So, when planning to head out into the summer weather, remember to plan ahead, drink frequently and look for early symptoms of dehydration. And as always, remember the old rhyme, “If your urine is clear, have no fear. If your urine is yellow, you are a dry fellow!”


DR. JAY GILLENWATER with Pediatric Associates of Charlottesville has been a pediatrician for over 20 years, enjoys working with children of all ages, and has special interests in the areas of asthma, cardiology and learning issues. He also loves the outdoors in the Scouting program., a collection of local resources including a popular calendar of events, family services guides and features on education, health and family day trips for parents and teachers in Charlottesville, as well as Virginia Wine & Country Life, a semi-annual life & style magazine, and Wine & Country Weddings, an annual art book celebrating elegant Virginia weddings.