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While the importance of drinking water seems obvious, especially during hot Florida summers, a new study by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health suggests that most American children and teens fall short when it comes to fluid intake. In fact, the study revealed that 25 percent of kids ages 6 to 19 didn’t drink any water as part of their daily fluid intake.

This water shortfall typically causes mild dehydration, which can affect energy levels, mood and even a child’s ability to learn. Many researchers attribute low water consumption to the popularity of sodas and other sugary drinks.

So how much is enough? According to the Institute of Medicine, children and teens should consume on average two to three quarts of water per day. And the water contained in foods like soups, fruit and veggies counts, too. While the total amount needed does vary by child, adolescent boys generally require more water than girls.

A few signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Thirst – This can be the first indicator that dehydration has set in, but it’s not always an accurate measure. However, parents should help kids get into the habit of always drinking water when they’re thirsty.
  • Dry Mouth – A sticky or dry feeling in the mouth, even after drinking, can be a sign of dehydration.
  • Sleepiness or Tiredness – Dehydrated children can appear less active or more tired than usual.
  • Urine Output and Color – When dehydrated, the urine color is often darker than normal. In most cases, the darker the color, the more severe the dehydration. The need to urinate also is less frequent.
  • Mental Changes – Kids may start of feel dizzy or lightheaded. In extreme cases, confusion or loss of consciousness may occur. Seek immediate medication attention since intravenous fluids may be necessary.

When left untreated, severe dehydration can lead to more serious conditions. So parents should start educating children early about the importance of drinking water. In fact, why not throw out all the sugary drinks and just start serving water with meals at home? It’s a healthy habit for a lifetime.

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