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YOU HEAR IT A LOT – STAY HYDRATED! What does this mean for your energetic kids? Do you need to worry about their electrolytes?

First and foremost, good old-fashioned H20 is the ticket to staying hydrated.

Approximately 75 percent of a person’s water intake comes from drinking water and other beverages, and the rest comes from food. You may have heard that adults need at least eight cups of water each day, but the amount is based on body size, temperatures, activities and other factors. Since children are smaller, they need less water than the average adult. Ask your child’s doctor for quantity recommendations.

Sports drinks and juices may be popular with kids and parents, but they aren’t really necessary unless a child is exposed to high temperatures for a prolonged time or is participating in an hour or more of intense activity. Even then, water is a great solution followed by foods that can replenish lost nutrients.

Electrolytes = Sodium and Potassium

A well-balanced diet typically provides plenty of sodium and potassium. Make sure children eat healthy, regularly scheduled meals, and you aren’t likely to have concerns. If there will be a lot of time between intense physical activities and the next meal, plan ahead and pack a mini-meal like a peanut butter or turkey sandwich that will give a burst of carbohydrates plus protein.

Keep a stash of bananas and nuts around to grab on-the-go and skip the fast food restaurant stops on the way home from activities. Most of all, avoid foods and beverages that are high in simple carbohydrates such as soda, candy, sugar-filled cereals, cakes and cookies. And keep in mind that milk will go a long way as a recovery drink.

Sugary Sweet

The big problem with a lot of sports drinks is that they are packed with sugar, and overconsumption can lead to weight gain and other health problems such as diabetes. Many families are misled by the fruit colors and flavors. These drinks typically are full of added sugar because a lot of people don’t like the flavor of the electrolyte replenishment ingredients. It’s not uncommon for a sports beverage to have as much sugar as a can of soda. Other pitfalls for excessive sugar intake include sodas, sweet tea, juice and sugary, powdered drink mixes.

When to Worry

If your child shows signs of dehydration (see list below) after specific activities, it is okay to supplement their water intake with a low-calorie sports drink. Just don’t make it an automatic habit and check for the amount of sugar if they are exercising intensely or seem to need something regularly.

Signs of Dehydration

  • Tired
  • Thirsty
  • Confused
  • Headache
  • Dry Mouth
  • Muscle Weakness

Warning: Dehydration can lead to heatstroke. If electrolytes are really imbalanced, there can be confusion, altered behaviors, muscle twitches, nausea and vomiting. If your child shows these symptoms, hydrate and seek immediate medical attention.

Avoid Energy Drinks

Energy drinks can be very dangerous because high levels of caffeine can cause big problems for children. Since many beverages are labeled as nutritional supplements they are not regulated by the FDA; therefore, they are not required to specifically list the amount of caffeine.

There can be as much as three to 10 times the level of caffeine in an energy drink as there is in a regular soda. Caffeine intoxication is a real and dangerous concern related to energy drinks.



This blog is adapted from an article in our Families First Magazine. Interested in getting future issues of Families First delivered to your home? Subscribe here.

WakeMed Children's Hospital