Hydration in infants and children
The need to maintain an adequate hydration status is the same for infants and children as for adults. The amounts of water needed to achieve this will be different though, and there are some key differences across the lifespan. This guide highlights special considerations that will help make sure our children stay properly hydrated.
The total body water content in infants is much higher than in adults.
As infants and children get older, recommended levels of water intake increase.1 Bigger bodies need a higher intake to replace water lost via breathing, sweating and urine. There is also some evidence suggesting that children may do better on some measures of learning, memory and cognition when well hydrated.2-4
Daily adequate water intake in infants and children
Infants and children are particularly vulnerable to the effects of dehydration. However, it is not easy to tell when infants need water. Children involved in activities may forget to drink, so those caring for them need to ensure hydration is adequate. This is particularly important in hot weather or when a child is ill.
Tips for keeping infants and children hydrated, especially in hot environments
Diarrhoea and vomiting are common in infants and children, with causes including viral or bacterial infection, intolerance or allergy, chronic conditions (e.g. Crohn’s disease, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel syndrome) and medications or treatments.5 Diarrhoea and vomiting can lead to dehydration if fluid intake is not increased sufficiently.6
Key signs of mild to moderate dehydration
It is essential to ensure a child with diarrhoea and/or vomiting is properly hydrated, as well as treating them with any necessary medication or dietary changes.7,8
How to treat dehydration in children
If you would like more information about the themes discussed in this article, the ICASH website contains a range of materials which explore hydration-related subjects in more detail.