Is my child drinking enough water?

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A reader asks about the recommended water intake in children and how to ensure they are consuming enough at childcare. Dr Nancy Tan from SBCC shares some insights.

Hydration is an important part of childhood nutrition – particularly in a country like Singapore with a very warm climate. If your toddler is very active it’s very important that he is getting enough water to avoid dehydration.

How much water should your child be drinking?

The general rule of thumb is that children aged between one and three years should be drinking 1-1.5 litres of fluid per day. Toddlers can become dehydrated easily so it’s important to include water as part of their every day diet.

How would you know if your child is getting enough water?

It can be difficult to ensure your toddler is getting enough water when you’re not around – particularly at childcare – so one of the best ways to tell is to look at the colour of his urine. If his urine is light coloured or colourless, this usually means he is getting enough water.

How to ensure your child gets enough water

Sometimes toddlers and young children can get distracted and forget to drink, and by the time they realize they are thirsty; they may already be mildly dehydrated. With that in mind, it’s important to ensure water is accessible and part of day-to-day life. Each time you get yourself a drink of water, offer one to your child. Give him his own special water bottle so he can drink whenever he feels like – some children particularly like water bottles with a sipper on top and this may provide an added incentive to drink more.

Why is water important?

Children also absorb water from food and other drinks during the day such as infant formula, vegetables, fruit, juice, soup, yoghurt etc. However, it is important that he is drinking enough plain water also.

For children who do not like drinking water, some parents may dilute fruit juice or soft drinks. However both of these are very high in sugar and can be low in nutritional value. Ideally, you should be encouraging your child to drink plain, unflavoured water as a refreshing and healthy drink.

Remember that it is also possible to drink too much water. This process is called water intoxication, hyper-hydration or water poisoning, and occurs when the balance of electrolytes in the brain is altered because of too much water in the body. Water intoxication is not common (usually it occurs as a result of water drinking contests or after long periods of intensive exercise after which electrolytes are not properly replenished before high-levels of water are consumed), however it can be fatal so don’t ever force your child to drink large quantities of water.

Answered by: Dr Nancy Tan, SBCC Baby and Child Clinic

About Dr Nancy Tan:

Dr Nancy Tan is a Consultant Paediatrician with more than 16 years of experience in the care of children, especially with chronic liver and gut diseases. Trained in the Paediatric Liver Centre, King’s College London, Dr Tan currently works at SBCC Baby & Child Clinic at Gleneagles Medical Centre, and is also a visiting consultant to the KK Women’s and Children’s Hospital

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