Hydration Information Part 1: (Hydrate what/when/why?)

Your bag is ready, you’ve got your sunscreen in the cooler to help it keep longer, you have your bug spray in there too, now what to bring to drink? We all know keeping hydrated is important, water can do that, but what else is there that a parent should know before you head out into that summer sun? It seems like first we should establish what is hydrated vs dehydrated, other than the obvious (hydrated good, have enough fluid; dehydrated bad, not enough fluid)? Well the easiest way to tell if you (or your kid) is hydrated? Thirst. If you are thirsty you are at best mildly dehydrated. (I’ll wait while you go get a glass of water) Electrolyte imbalance is what triggers that thirst feeling. (we will come back to those mysterious sounding minerals in a minute) Children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults. Why? Those lovely folks over at WebMD say it better than I could:

Children love to play outside, especially when the weather’s warm. Parents, however, should know that active children do not adjust to hot temperatures (greater than 95°F) as well as adults. Their body surface, as a proportion of their overall weight, is much greater than an adult’s. So they produce more heat during physical activity and they sweat less than adults. This reduces their ability to get rid of body heat and could lead to dehydration.

And? What happens if you get dehydrated, I mean we all know it’s bad and long-term, it will kill you, but reality speak says there has to be something between “Mommy, I’m thirsty.” and dead, right? Well, these are your early signs and symptoms of dehydration in children (from our friends at the University of Maryland:

Lack of Tears

  • Children who are dehydrated may cry without tears. The body does not have the fluids necessary to produce tears in children lacking in fluids. This sign helps parents to identify the problem in babies and children too young to articulate how they feel.

Lack of Urination

  • Children and adults have a lower urine output when dehydrated. Babies and toddlers in diapers may have six diapers or fewer in the early stages of dehydration, according to the Mayo Clinic. A child that does not wet a diaper for six to eight hours may be experiencing severe dehydration. Older children not in diapers experience fewer trips to the bathroom for urination.


  • Early signs of dehydration include fatigue and listlessness in children. Children who are dehydrating may be irritable, confused and dizzy as well. Children, who are severely dehydrated may be extremely sleepy, fussy and confused. The dehydration may cause babies and children to experience head pain. The muscles may feel weak during dehydration, which may explain fatigue and sluggishness.

Dry Mouth

  • The early signs of  dehydration cause the mucous membranes to become dry. This causes the mouth to become dry and sticky. Children who feel dehydrated experience thirst as well.

They go on to talk about these very scary Extreme Dehydration Symptoms:

When dehydration advances to an extreme phase, the symptoms include a loss of elasticity in the skin. The skin remains in a pinched position when pulled or pinched. Children in severe dehydration may experience a rapid heartbeat, low blood pressure and–in extreme cases–loss of consciousness. Parents may notice the soft spot on the baby’s head appears shrunken in extreme cases of dehydration.  Severe dehydration is an emergency and requires immediate medical attention.

*A side note here: Severe dehydration also will look like a kid has black eyes (without the swelling associated normally with black eyes).* 

And on to happier less scary things! I found a chart! (You know how I ADORE a good chart) This one is actually a pee color chart! (which would be the 2nd easiest way to tell if your kid needs more fluids, the darker the pee, the more dehydrated)

Now, as promised, we will go onto electrolytes, we hear about them all the time (usually in Sports Drinks ads), but what are they other than the things we lose (other than water) when we sweat? From the very informed folks at emedicinehealth I found the best (but still simple) answer I could:

Electrolytes are the smallest of chemicals that are important for the cells in the body to function and allow the body to work. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and others are critical in allowing cells to generate energy, maintain the stability of their walls, and to function in general. They generate electricity, contract muscles, move water and fluids within the body, and participate in myriad other activities.

So, basically, in order to stay hydrated to have to consume both fluid and electrolytes, just like everything else in your body, you need this balance. So that was the what/when/why of hydration, stay tuned for the how…

And as always, Stay safe in the summer sun! 🙂

Got any other hydration what/when/why facts to share? Please, it takes a Village and all, we welcome both your knowledge and input!