If May’s unseasonable heat wave was any indication of the hot temperatures Orange County could face this summer, you’d better get your water bottle ready.
Children are especially vulnerable to dehydration during the summer. Kids who are active outdoors – whether they play sports or hit the beaches – need to remember that drinking plenty of water is critical to maintaining good health during the hot months.
The CHOC Urology Center treats many kids during summertime who suffer from urologic conditions related to poor water drinking, said Dr. Antoine Khoury, a pediatric urologist and the center’s medical director.
“It is remarkable how frequently children and their families forget to drink water. The fluid they take in is juice, soda and milk, and not water,” Dr. Khoury said.
A good way to tell if a child is hasn’t been drinking enough is to check the color of his urine. If it’s dark yellow, the urine is concentrated and the child needs to drink more. The urine should be pale in color or better still clear, this provides the child with immediate feedback to drink more water any time the urine is not clear. And, “Any time the child is thirsty he is already dehydrated,” Dr. Khoury said.
Drinking liquids other than water is not as effective in keeping the body hydrated, Dr. Khoury explained. Our bodies require “free water,” or water that is available to the kidneys so they can do their job filtering blood and extracting waste through urine. Giving the kidneys extra water helps them do their job.
Dehydrated children can face several serious urological problems. They include:
1) Kidney stones. Due to a lack of water intake, the urine becomes concentrated and overly rich in salts and crystals. Crystals can be a nidus for kidney stones formation. This can be a very painful condition.
2) Bladder infections. If a child’s body doesn’t make enough urine, the urine becomes concentrated. Children who don’t produce enough urine will not get the urge to urinate and tend to hold it in. Holding in urine for several hours accelerates bacteria growth and may cause a bladder infection.
3) Constipation and incontinence. The more water the colon absorbs from the food due to lack of water in the body, the harder and smaller the stool is. Children who don’t drink enough water can become constipated. The dysfunctional emptying of the bladder associated with constipation promotes incontinence and infections.
4) Urgent and frequent urination. A child’s urine can become so concentrated and loaded with crystals and salts that the bladder becomes irritated. This may lead to urgent and frequent urination.
Drinking Water Guidelines
Dr. Antoine Khoury, Medical Director of the CHOC Urology Center, recommends that children drink an 8-ounce cup of water daily for every year of age, up to the age of 8. (So a four-year-old should drink at least four cups of water daily). Kids over 8 and adults should drink 8 cups of water daily. This recommended water intake is in addition to any other fluids consumed. Finally, sports drinks are not a substitute for water!
If your child experiences a urological problem, call the CHOC Urology Center at 714-512-3919.