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Your Child May Not Be Drinking Enough Water

Many American children and teens aren't drinking enough liquids, particularly water. That could lead to dehydration, which could affect their physical and mental health, according to a new study. This isn't surprising since most adults don't drink enough water, either.

#The new study’s findings "highlight a potential health issue that has not been given a whole lot of attention in the past," said study author Erica Kenney, a postdoctoral research fellow at the Harvard School of Public Health. "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.”

#Harvard researchers analyzed data from more than 4,000 children and teens, aged 6 to 19, who took part in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2009 and 2012.

#Roughly 50 percent of the participants weren't getting enough hydration, with boys more likely than girls to be improperly hydrated, and blacks more likely than whites to be dehydrated. About a quarter of the children in the study said they drank no plain water at all.

#Experts aren’t surprised by the findings and suggest the food industry, pushing sports drinks, flavored teas and trendy juices, is one likely contributor to the problem.

#The study’s researchers say proper hydration is crucial for proper circulation, metabolism, temperature regulation and waste removal. Severe dehydration can lead to neurological problems and heat stroke. Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, irritability, poor circulation, reduced physical performance and poorer mental functioning.

#The solution is simple: "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 senior author Steven Gortmaker.

#Here’s how to make sure your child is properly hydrated:

Don't rely on a child's thirst since thirst isn’t a good indicator of hydration.

Increase water intake by 1 cup or 8 ounces per day.

Severe cold water; it tastes better.

Put frozen water bottles in your child's lunchbox. The bottles help keep their lunch cold and thaw throughout the day.

Infuse water with fruits (such as oranges or raspberries), vegetables (such as cucumbers) or herbs to give it flavor without adding sugar.