Caring for Your Children: Dehydration, Electrolytes, and Feeding their Bodies and Souls
Food & Nutrition
Caring for Your Children: Dehydration, Electrolytes, and Feeding their Bodies and Souls
Dehydration can have unwanted physical and emotional effects on children. For example, Coconut water - considered a juice - is a great natural source of electrolytes, and kids love the taste
By Mark Zuleger-Thyss
Since the beginning of time, water has been highly regarded for its healing and magical effects. We are in awe of water; its movement, its forms, its colors, and its spellbinding power. Of all the tools available, water has the power to dissolve anything~
Nothing affects the body quite like dehydration. Water is essential to life. Your body is made up of cells that are filled with water and need it to perform their day-to-day activities.
So, what informs you that extra glass of water is needed? Dry skin, a throbbing headache, and fatigue are well-known signs for many.
As an adult, you can describe in your own words how you are feeling. But with a child, you must watch over them, aware of what is transpiring with their health and wellbeing.
Two-thirds of a child's little body is water. Their blood, which is responsible for carrying oxygen, nutrients, and waste products to and from cells, is more than 95% water. Staying hydrated supports important functions such as maintaining body temperature and lubricating your joints.
You might already know what happens when your child becomes dehydrated. Mild dehydration usually results in dry mouth and lips and increased thirst.
With moderate dehydration, the stakes are higher. Children interact and play less, have dry mouths, urinate infrequently, and have trouble with poor concentration. These outcomes have troubling implications for performance in school.
The physical effects of dehydration have been well-studied. Yet, the impact on mental health and brain functioning is a relatively new area of research.
Water was considered by Ancient Peoples to be the Carrier of Souls~Children were taken to the river as soon as they were born and immersed in water to give them their soulsSimilarly, the stork also appears as a mythical being, not bringing the children so much as delivering their souls~
Key Warning Signs of Impending Dehydration in Children
- dry mouth, lips, and eyes
- white, pale skin that is cold and clammy to the touch
- sleepiness and feeling tired
- deep breathing through the mouth
- feeling confused
- feeling dizzy or lightheaded
- dangerously low blood pressure
- skin on the knees and elbows may become mottled
- noticeably little urine, which can be dark yellow and strong-smelling
Children at play are fascinating to watch. Going on a treasure hunt, playing "I Spy," making bubbles, and finding a pet rock to care for. They exude pure joy with unbridled energy until the car ride home. Suddenly your daughter is extra thirsty and feeling "strange." Even a little water does not bring her around to feel herself again.
Instead of water, perhaps an electrolyte drink might be better. You have read that when water is not enough, an electrolyte drink can restore balance and rehydrate a child's tiny body.
You might think that drinking a little water couldn't affect your child's brain, but research shows it does. Hydration, brain function, and mood are closely linked.
Childhood is a Memory worth Recollecting in Old Age~Remember how you lay in the summer sun under a big blue sky, blinking at the trees rustling in the wind, and how you dreamed of possibilities? Catching raindrops on your tongue, walking under archways because they were there, and rolling around in the sand at the beach?.Sweet memories and everyday experiences - in gentle outlines with astonishing clarity - emerge from a silent stream of endless abundance.The curious longing of this most adventurous of all times, of the childhood still unknown to itself, so devotedly wasting itself on all encounters, like a distant cloud … floating.Making scary monster faces in the mirror and putting Cocoa Puffs up your nose is how childhood is meant to be ... full of wonder, joy, and pure fun~
Three Forms of Dehydration of the Body
- Isotonic dehydration (lack of sodium and body water in equal measure)
- Hypotonic dehydration (too little sodium to the amount of water)
- Hypertonic dehydration (too much sodium to the amount of water)
Depending on the extent of the dehydration, i.e., thirst, dry skin and mucous membranes, concentrated, dark yellow urine or reduced urination, sunken eyes, tachycardia, low blood pressure, standing skin folds, shock with poor circulation, and disturbances of consciousness such as lethargy, confusion, and delirium up to and including coma.
Common Causes of Dehydration
Drinking too little, diarrhea, vomiting, infectious diseases, blood loss, significant burns, and acute kidney failure.
Other Serious Causes of Dehydration
Children can become dehydrated if their gastrointestinal tract becomes infected or inflamed due to stomach flu caused by a virus or bacteria.
Cholera-contaminated Food or Water
Children can sometimes unknowingly consume water or food that has been contaminated with human feces infected with cholera bacteria. This grave situation can result in acute vomiting and diarrhea that can cause dehydration, hypovolemic shock, and in some cases, death.
Consumption of Diuretics
In an unlikely case, your child could somehow ingest diuretics in such large amounts enough that dehydration would result. Diuretics stimulate the body to increase the flow and volume of urine and the loss of electrolytes in the urine.
Even adults must use caution as the overuse of diuretics combined with a low-salt diet can lead to dehydration.
Older children and tweens have become susceptible to eating disorders in the last 30 years or more.
Bulimia nervosa is an eating disorder characterized by irresistible urges to ingest large amounts of food. This disorder is also accompanied by purging: induced vomiting or the use of laxatives, enemas, diuretics, or excessive exercise. All forms of purging can lead to dehydration.
The adrenal glands, located above the kidneys, produce steroid hormones that play a role in maintaining the body's fluid balance. Although rare, sometimes the adrenal glands become inactive, causing "Addison's disease," which causes excessive loss of urine and thus dehydration.
Vomiting contributes to dehydration, and it's crucial to pay attention when it happens
If your child vomits frequently, their body can quickly become dehydrated, which becomes dangerous in short order, especially in infants. Dry mouth, white skin, drowsiness, and breathing deeply through the mouth are typical signs of impending dehydration.
The doctor usually bases the diagnosis of dehydration on the presence of symptoms and signs on a physical examination. Your pediatrician will collect the child's medical history (anamnesis) and perform bloodwork and urine analysis to check the electrolyte balance.
What can your Family Doctor do?
The only effective treatment for dehydration is to replace lost fluids and lost electrolytes. The best approach to treatment depends on the child's age, the severity of dehydration, and its cause.
A doctor treats children's dehydration (and vomiting) depending on the triggers. For example, is there a risk of dehydration because of severe diarrhea or vomiting?
Children can be put on an IV to counter fluid and electrolyte loss. This restores the balance of lost minerals and liquids and can thus help to speed up recovery.
Depending on the extent of the dehydration, fluid intake via drinks or infusions is all that is needed. Mild dehydration can be treated by giving your child a lot of fluids, preferably water, fruit, or herbal tea.
Dehydration: when should you call a doctor?
Severe dehydration can come with dizziness, rapid heartbeat and breathing, headache and delirium, sleepiness, sunken eyes, muscle cramps, decreased urination, and fever and unconsciousness—in these cases, you should contact your family doctor immediately.
Also consider taking your child to an emergency room or call an ambulance as measures such as IV fluids may be required
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Will my Child need Hospitalization?
Dehydration can sometimes be treated at home, but severe cases may require hospitalization. This type of care might be ordered by your doctor and will include:
Is Naturopathic Pediatrics a Good Choice for your Family?
Most children in the U.S. receive conventional medicine when they are ill. Today, many parents also are interested in natural therapies. Alternative medicine, complementary medicine, holistic medicine, and integrative medicine describe these different therapies.
Naturopathic physicians are healthcare providers who are specialists in the natural treatment and prevention of disease. The U.S. Department of Education classifies the N.D. degree as a Doctorate-Professional degree, on par with M.D. and D.O.
Naturopathic medicine is a discipline of clinical sciences that merges modern medical diagnostic tools with evidence-based and time-proven holistic treatments.
Your naturopath will help establish the conditions for your child’s health by addressing the fundamental cause of dehydration rather than just addressing the present symptoms.
Water's Central Role in Life~The spiritual and sacred symbolism of water was recorded throughout history in the context of healing because it sets in motion transformations ...Water communicates the sacred value of life; the spiritual dimension of purification, protection, and healing; and the profound meaning of suffering and redemption in human life~
Why Kids Become Dehydrated
As a parent, your young children must rely on you to monitor their activities and intake of liquids. Children look to you to provide a drink when needed. Children are not always good at knowing when they need to drink. Kids need to drink throughout the day to stay adequately hydrated.
Children are inclined to become dehydrated due to their high activity level during play and other activities. A child's body also possesses a high ratio of body surface area to mass. As a child sweats, they lose more of their body's water than an adult does.
What are Electrolytes?
All children need electrolytes to live. Electrolytes are essential to life and play a critical role in regulating your water balance and metabolism. You always must make sure that you regularly replenish your electrolyte stores.
Electrolytes are essential minerals that become electrically charged ions once dissolved in water. Electrical impulses are drivers for many of the body's vital functions, including one of the most important ones, beating your heart.
Electrolytes are salts, bases, and acids found in your body's fluids. When dissolved in a liquid, such as blood, these minerals can conduct an electrical charge.
The positively charged particles are called cations. Examples of cations include sodium. An example of a negatively charged anion is chloride. Electrolytes in the blood are in an "electrolyte balance."
Electrolytes help regulate nerve and muscle function and the acid-base and water balance in the human body. They transport nutrients into your cells and ensure that your heart, brain, nerves, and muscles function correctly.
Electrolytes cannot be produced by your body and must therefore be ingested through the daily consumption of foods.
Electrolytes are essential to survival. The most important electrolytes for your young ones include magnesium, sodium, calcium, and potassium.
Children obtain electrolytes naturally from the foods they eat. Familiar food sources include fruits and vegetables like bananas, avocado, oranges, strawberries, melon, and watermelon. A healthy diet with adequate fluids is all it takes to meet their daily electrolyte needs.
When do Children need Electrolytes?
Children need electrolytes replaced anytime they have lost excessive fluids. Look at your child and watch for any signs of dehydration. In addition to the symptoms already mentioned, a rapid heart rate, extreme fatigue, low energy, listlessness, and extra fussiness are also clues.
Research shows that a 4% fluid deficit can cause headaches, irritability, sleepiness, increased temperature, and rapid breathing.
Food as Medicine
If your child is finicky about their food and drink, creativity on your part is in order. Kids love flavor-infused waters, and the following suggestions can be made at home.
- citrus fruits
- mint leaves
Praise for Coconut Water
Coconut water is the clear liquid of unripe coconuts, and it's considered a juice. As the coconut matures, the water is replaced with coconut meat. It is sometimes referred to as green coconut water because the immature coconuts are green in color.
Unsweetened coconut water with a pinch of salt is an excellent natural source of electrolytes.
A body of research shows that consuming coconut water may help prevent dehydration in children with mild diarrhea. In addition, some athletes use coconut water to replace fluids after exercise or use it as an energy recovery drink.
Coconut water with no added sugar is an excellent choice. It contains potassium and electrolytes and is low in calories. Coconut water has more potassium than one banana: 16 ounces of coconut water has about 800 mg, while a banana has 326 mg.
One benefit of coconut water is its good taste – something your kids will love. Its ability to promote healthy blood glucose levels is the perfect remedy for dehydration in anyone.
Health Benefits of Coconut Water
- Help in losing weight
- Burns fat faster
- Good for the skin
- Supplies energy
- Balances blood sugar
- Helps dissolve kidney stones
- Increases heart health
- Improves blood circulation
Other Good Sources of Electrolyte Minerals
Eating a well-balanced diet is the best way to maintain a healthy electrolyte balance. Foods that provide electrolytes and minerals include:
Is Apple Juice better than an Electrolyte Drink?
Electrolyte solutions and sports drinks often are recommended to prevent dehydration in children with mild to moderate stomach flu.
One disadvantage is that your child might not take to the taste of some of these products. A good alternative is diluted apple juice. It performs even better than any electrolyte solution in cases of mild dehydration.
As an adult, staying hydrated and eating a well-balanced diet can keep your electrolytes in check whether you are engaging in exercise or after having caught a stomach bug. Staying on top of hydration is an integral part of a good health and wellness routine.
Your Responsibility | Ensuring your Children stay Well-hydrated
Even mild dehydration can cause headaches, low energy levels, and mood and mental status changes. Maintaining balance is especially important for children expected to concentrate all day at school. The good news is that there are plenty of ways you can help your child get enough to drink each day
This article does not replace a diagnosis by a doctor. Dehydration presents many symptoms, so consulting your doctor is the best course of action
© 2022, Mark Zuleger-Thyss, Garden of Healing, LLC. All rights reserved