Your Child Might Not Be Getting Enough Water

Dehydration was common among US children and teens


Got water? Most US kids may not be drinking enough of it. And that could be a problem.

A new study found that many US children and adolescents didn't drink enough fluids, and that many drank no water at all — relying instead on milk, juice, sugar-sweetened beverages, coffee or tea.

"These findings are significant because they highlight a potential health issue that has not been given a whole lot of attention in the past," said lead study author Erica L. Kenney, ScD, of Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, in a press release. "Even though for most of these kids this is not an immediate, dramatic health threat, this is an issue that could really be reducing quality of life and well-being for many, many children and youth."

According to Dr. Kenney and team, the human body uses water for circulation, metabolism, temperature regulation and waste removal. Even mild dehydration can cause headaches and irritability and affect physical performance. People who are dehydrated may also have trouble thinking..

Each year, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) conducts a study called the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey. Dr. Kenney and team looked at data from this study on more than 4,000 children and adolescents ages 6 to 19 from 2009 to 2012.

In addition to collecting information about diet and fluid intake, these researchers used a urine test to determine whether study participants were drinking enough fluids. The test — called a urine osmolality — measures how concentrated a patient’s urine is.

Just over half of the children and adolescents weren't getting enough hydration, according to Dr. Kenney and team.

How could that be? Nearly a quarter of the participants said they never drank plain water.

However, water was included in the top three beverages chosen by study participants. The other two beverages were sugar-sweetened beverages — an average of two 8-ounce glasses a day — and milk.

Dr. Kenney and team found that the younger children were less likely to drink the proper amount of fluids, compared to teens. Black children were also found to be more likely to be inadequately hydrated than white children, and boys were found to be more likely to be inadequately hydrated than girls.

According to these researchers, there may be a simple solution to reversing these trends.

"If we can focus on helping children drink more water — a low-cost, no-calorie beverage — we can improve their hydration status, which may allow many children to feel better throughout the day and do better in school,” said study author Steven L. Gortmaker, PhD, a professor of health sociology at Harvard University, in a press release.

This study was published in the June issue of the American Journal of Public Health.

The CDC and a grant in memory of Melvin R. Seiden funded this research.

No conflicts of interest were disclosed.