LAHORE: Summer months can be notably taxing on children as the rising heat outside leads to the body sweating more to regulate its temperature. Even just standing around, a child’s body will be losing water which makes it even more important to make sure that they stay hydrated to maintain their body water levels.

Water makes up 60 per cent of the average adult body and that ratio is higher in younger children. From retaining a normal body temperature through sweating, assisting in digestion and removing waste from the body, water has a range of roles in our bodies. All these activities, however, contribute to water loss.

Experts say staying hydrated contributes not only to the support of physical functions but it also helps a child’s brain retain its normal functions like alertness, concentration and attention. These can affect their decision-making, productivity in class and possibly lead to accidents when engaged in intensive physical activities.

Pediatrician retired captain Dr Mazhar Hashmi says drinking water and staying hydrated is essential to healthy living. “Without enough water our bodies start to lose function. This is especially important for children as they are too small to understand their own needs. We have to watch for signs to tell if they are becoming dehydrated. After all, it falls on us to teach them the importance of water. And especially with summer coming, we must make sure they drink plenty of water.”

He says that when a child feels tired or drowsy, having a slight headache, or feeling weak muscles it can be a symptom of dehydration. Children in particular are at risk of becoming dehydrated for several reasons. Because they don’t have the same impulse to drink when thirsty, their water intake is often insufficient. And while engaging in physical activities, children may easily become dehydrated if their water intake is not kept up. So, it’s up to us to ensure that our children stay well hydrated. Younger children also have a relatively higher body surface which leads to increased water loss through their skin. And as their bodies have less developed thermoregulatory systems, they are more vulnerable to heat stress than adults.

Water can be boring, though, especially for children, which makes keeping them hydrated a little harder. However, this can be as simple as adding some fruit to the water to add a little extra flavour or giving them something a little more colourful than the standard water bottles, says Dr Hashmi.

Nutritionist Dr Shagufta Feroz says that children don’t have the habit of drinking water and when they are dehydrated it can make them irritable.

Published in Dawn, April 30th, 2018

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