The Essential Back-To-School Supply: Water

August 23, 2017

It’s back-to-school season — a time when you can’t keep an eye on your kids during the day and they’re developing a will of their own. It’s also a time to be concerned about dehydration, especially if they play team sports. While the human body can tolerate dehydration for short periods of time, such as a few hours, ongoing dehydration will affect your child’s physical health. In addition to feeling thirsty, signs of dehydration include dry mouth, dizziness, fatigue, and constipation (causing abdominal discomfort) and contribute to a burning sensation when trying to urinate.

It’s important to note that urinary burning or irritation may not necessarily be a urinary tract infection (UTI), although it can be and should be tested. When the body is dehydrated, it tries to conserve all the water it can by pulling water from the stool, wreaking havoc on bowel and bladder functions. This is followed by constipation, which creates less room for the bladder to empty effectively, possibly mimicking a UTI when it’s really not. Instead of medical treatment, it may be that your child just needs to regularly drink more water.

Long-term dehydration can result in kidney stones that can lead to possible kidney damage. In fact, we are seeing more and more children with kidney stones over the past couple of decades. Although there are a number of factors that could be influencing this trend, animal protein-rich foods and high-calorie, high-sodium beverages are certainly contributing to the problem. Even diet soda is not the healthiest choice. Drinking plenty of pure water daily is the best defense against kidney stones and other bladder conditions because water washes out crystals (that might form into stones) and other impurities.

So how much is enough, and how do you encourage your child to practice good hydration? First of all, skip counting ounces; kids are generally not predisposed to keep a tally of what they consume. Instead, teach them to drink enough water so that their urine is almost clear. And yes, this means they’ll probably be going to the bathroom more often throughout the day. Secondly, send your kids to class with a reusable water bottle — filled with water, of course. Your primary care provider can issue a note giving them permission to drink in class if the school requires it.

Finally, dehydration is a common problem, but the solution is an easy one. Drinking lots of water is part of a healthy lifestyle that can help you avoid health problems and medical interventions later. And it’s learned from the parents. Please feel free to contact either me or your primary care provider if you have any concerns.

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