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When the temperature goes up, so do our hydration needs

The Institute of Medicine has found that up to 75 percent of the American population walk around chronically dehydrated. Even mild dehydration can cause tiredness, headaches, lack of concentration, and reduced mental performance. Research suggests adequately hydrated children may perform better in school.

Hydration is even more important for children, as their bodies are smaller, and become dehydrated faster. Small children may not recognize they are thirsty, so as a parent or child care provider, it is important to pay attention and encourage their fluid intake.

The Institute of Medicine recommends a guideline for water or beverage intake for children. This chart gives recommendations for drinking fluids.

Kids Total Daily Beverage and Drinking Water Requirements

4 to 8 Year Old Girls and Boys
5 Cups a Day

9 to 13 Years Old Girls
7 Cups a Day

9 to 13 Year Old Boys
8 Cups a Day

14 to 18 Year Old Girls
8 Cups a Day

14 to 18 Year Old Boys
11 Cups a Day

Data are from Institute of Medicine of the National Academies. Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) Tables. Recommended Daily Allowance and Adequate Intake Values: Total Water and Macronutrients.

Now that we know the quantity of fluids your kids need, what types are best?


Water is the recommended fluid for everyone. Water helps our bodies in so many ways. It carries nutrients to cells, removes waste products and helps us control our body temperatures. A child's needs may vary, based on their weight, if they are sick, the air temperature and humidity, and if they are involved in sports. Newborns do not need extra water, but a sick infant may need an electrolyte solution recommended by your doctor. 

Sports Drinks

According to the Robert Woods Foundation, sports drinks are alright in limited quantities, but only for individuals engaged in prolonged vigorous physical activity for more than one hour. Many children consume sports drinks daily, and this is adding calories without nutrition. For most children and adolescents, consuming water before, during, and after physical activity provides enough hydration.


The Midwest Dairy Association recommends drinking milk after strenuous exercise to replenish fluids and repair muscles faster. Before, during and after any physical activity, kids need to drink plenty of water, especially in hot weather. The goal is to drink a half cup to two cups of water every 15 to 20 minutes while exercising.

Energy Drinks

One drink a child under 18 should never consume are energy drinks. These drinks contain high amounts of caffeine, and are considered dangerous for children. There have been cases of children consuming these drinks and having heart problems or heart attacks.

Other Sources

Children also obtain fluids from the foods they eat. Fruits and vegetables and even meat are all sources of fluids.

As you can see water is the best way to stay hydrated for everyone. If you or your child does not like drinking water, try adding a slice of fruit or a cucumber to flavor it. Some flavored waters sold in stores contain added nutrients and calories that you and your child may not need. So keep it simple, turn on tap, add a few ice cubes and an orange slice, and enjoy a cold, glass of water with your child! You will both feel better!

1) Natural Hydration Council. 2016. Hydration and Water Facts for Kids. Found at

2) Mullen, MS, RD, Mary. Shield, MED RD LD, Joellen. May 03, 2016. Water: What do Kids Need Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. Found at

3) A Research Review. June 2012. Consumption of Sports Drinks by Children and Adolescents. The Robert Woods Foundation. Found at
Ericson, John. July 3, 2013. 75% of Americans May Suffer From Chronic Dehydration, According to Doctors. US/World. Found at

Cindy Brison MS RD

Registered Dietitian from UNL Extension

Cindy Brison has worked in the nutrition field since 1989. She has a  Master of Science degree in Community Nutrition and a Bachelor of Science degree in Dietetics. Cindy is a mother of three and specializes in teaching food safety, gardening, cooking, and health and wellness classes to childcare providers, youth groups, and adults. Learn more about Cindy and the other UNL Extension nutrition experts at ...

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