”By the time your child says he is thirsty, he is already dehydrated.”
“…need to be reminded to drink 5 to 9 ounces (10 to 18 1/2 ounce “gulps”) every 20 minutes during activity…”
“Younger children should be given water bottles with marks on the sides showing how much they should drink each time or told how many “gulps” to drink.”
“Kids’ fluid intake needs to be supervised. Children do not instinctively drink enough fluids to replace water losses, so it is essential that you watch to see how much water they actually drink”
Scary stuff. Dehydration? Heat related illness? You’re a bad mom if you are not supervising gulps…
This is the kind of thing that makes me crazy— fear and not trusting in the wisdom of the human machine. The article, which was almost exactly the info I got in a mailer from my pediatrician’s office is emblematic of how we are trained to parent from fear.
Points to ponder:
- Was there an epidemic of heat-related illness?
- Where’s the data to support the ounces or gulps needed?
- How can they make the statement that kids don’t instinctively drink enough? How have we survived as a species unless the human body was actually very capable of managing thirst and hydration? Unless there are kidney or centrally mediated (i.e pituitary type) problems, the body is pretty great at managing this stuff.
This is the kind of statement that terrifies parents into trying to control and micromanage things we don’t need to control or micromanage. AND, if we can’t trust kids with thirst, we certainly must have to control and manage their untrustworthy hunger…
- Think back to what playing outside or sports days were like for you growing up. Were you occasionally stopping by the water fountain, or enjoying a few Dixie Cups of water after a game?
Let’s imagine what actually implementing these guidelines might look like:
It’s your child’s soccer practice. You can’t trust your coach to monitor and supervise every gulp, so one adult must be there for every child. Every 20 minutes the hydration supervisor goes out on the field with a bottle that has marks on the side (or the parent can choose to count gulps but will have to sign a waiver). Then the parent refills the bottles to the correct amount. Repeat every 20 minutes. During game days, the action will stop every 20 minutes for supervised gulp breaks. Kids will be encouraged to wear “hydration alarms” that go off every 20 minutes.
If the author really believes that the child’s ability to regulate hydration and electrolyte status is that fragile, then that is what we should be doing. (And if we’re not, why aren’t legions of children passing out or overheating?)
Where is the good sense? How did any of us survive to adulthood?
Remember that there is no better consumer than a scared mom. (As an aside, notice that the second page says that sports drinks are the best choice. Wonder if sports drinks manufacturers might support and sponsor this kind of article…)
My general thoughts on hydration:
- Offer milk or water with most meals and snacks
- Offer water between meals and snacks.
- Fruit juices: serve with meals and snacks. Try to aim for about 4 ounces for young children, more some days, less others is fine.
- During activity, have water available, and allow time to drink it at reasonable intervals.
- If it’s 105 degrees, maybe the kids shouldn’t be playing eight hours of soccer, or three hours of football in full gear, but that’s a personal call.
- With extreme sweating/exertion and/or heat, consider electrolyte drinks or chocolate milk and water for hydration, and watch for signs of illness.
(Maybe this is a sign of changing times too. When I was little, traveling soccer and intense athletics for kids was just starting, so maybe the Dixie cup method isn’t sufficient for today’s child athletes, but is there a middle ground?)
What do you think? Is this something you see and worry about with your kids?