Q: Why is it important to get plenty of fluids?
A: You need fluids for good health each day. According to Mary Meck Higgins, K-State Research and Extension Nutrition Specialist, the body's vital organs are composed mostly of water.
Your body needs fluids to carry oxygen, nutrients and medicines to cells; to cushion organs, tissue, bones and joints; and to remove wastes. Constipation is a problem for some. Drinking plenty of liquids helps make bowel movements easier.
If you don't drink enough fluids, you will become dehydrated. A serious case of dehydration can lead to hospitalization. Dehydration makes your kidneys work too hard, decreases the amount of saliva you make and reduces the tears moistening your eyes. It can make your skin feel flushed. You may get a headache, or feel tired or dizzy. Your pulse rate may increase. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke may result. Death can follow.
It's best not to wait until you're thirsty. People often become slightly dehydrated before they get thirsty. If you provide care to someone else, offer fluids often. Hold a glass of water or other nourishing liquid up to them when offering a drink.
Q: How much fluid is enough?
A: Urine should appear pale yellow in color. If it is dark yellow or appears concentrated, you need more fluids. Healthy adults should drink 8 cups, or more, of liquids each day. Large adults need more fluid than smaller people do.
Q: Can you "eat" your liquids?
A: Sure! Solid foods can contribute fluids to your diet, especially:
¢ fruits, such as oranges, apples, grapes and watermelon
¢ juicy or leafy vegetables such as spinach, tomatoes and celery
¢ ice, ice cream, gelatins, yogurt, popsicles and puddings
¢ soft, blenderized and pureed foods
Try to drink plenty of liquids in addition to the foods you eat. If you find that you are not that hungry for foods when you drink a beverage with your meal, try waiting about an hour after meals and then drink a glass or two of water, milk or juice. Drink in the morning, afternoon and evenings.
Enjoy nutritious fluids often, such as plain cool water, 100 percent fruit juices, low sodium vegetable juices, milk and milkshakes, low-sodium soup broth and nutritional supplement drinks.
Beverages with alcohol or with caffeine, such as coffee, tea, cocoa and some soft drinks, act as mild diuretics. (A diuretic speeds fluid loss by making you have to urinate more often.) However, your body adjusts to this over time, so if you regularly drink these kinds of beverages, you may count them as helping you meet your fluid intake goal.
Q: Is it true that children don't tolerate heat as well as adults?
A: Yes, that's correct. Children don't tolerate heat as well as adults because their bodies generate more heat relative to their size than adults do. They are also not as quick to adjust to changes in temperatures that summer brings. Plus, children have more skin surface relative to their body size which means they lose more water through evaporation from the skin.
Adults need to encourage children to drink water when playing in the heat. Kids tend to forget to drink when they are playing and need to be reminded. Muscle work of any kind causes the body to lose water through sweat. This is true even when swimming or playing in other cool environments.
Watch for signs of dehydration in children, such as decreased frequency of urination, dark urine and coated tongue. Signs of more severe dehydration include sunken eyes, nausea, muscle cramps and pain, clammy skin and a throbbing heart. If the child has any of these symptoms, seek advice from a physician immediately.
Advice for kids in active play, especially in the heat include:
¢ Drink a couple of glasses of cold water 1-2 hours before the activity and another cup 10-15 minutes before.
¢ Take water breaks every 15 minutes during activity to drink at least 1/2 cup of water.
¢ Plain cold water is absorbed most quickly by the body.
¢ Each child should have their own personalized water bottle.
¢ Flavored drinks may be acceptable to children, and they are OK if they don't contain too much sugar (no more than 15-18 grams of carbohydrate per 8 ounces - check the label). Powdered lemonade mixed to half-strength is well-accepted by children.
¢ Carbonated soft drinks may cause stomach upset because of the bubbles.
¢ Iced tea and soft drinks with caffeine provide less fluid because of their diuretic effect.
¢ Weigh kids before and after long play or sports activities. Each pound lost should be replaced by drinking two cups of fluid.