Dehydration can affect your children without you ever knowing. In fact, children, along with elderly adults, are the most susceptible to dehydration.

They require greater volumes of water to stay hydrated, and thus, experience a greater risk for dehydration. Unfortunately, studies have also shown that children are less likely to voluntarily drink enough water throughout the day.  According to surveys, just 15 percent of U.S. children 9-13 years old consume enough water each day, while children 4-8 fare slightly better at just 25 percent. That’s problematic, because even mild dehydration has been shown to cause of variety of adverse symptoms, from lightheadedness to fatigue and more.

So what can parents do to prepare? First, you might encourage your child to drink water and other hydrating beverages throughout the day; we highlighted a few strategies on the blog. Also, be sure you recognize the symptom of dehydration. Finally, keep an eye out for these signs of dehydration -- a few of which might surprise you.

Dry Skin. Water accounts for about 30 percent[i] of skin by weight, and when we’re dehydrated, our skin suffers. First, dehydration diminishes skin turgor, meaning it loses elasticity. That’s why one simple test for dehydration is to pinch the skin on the back of the hand. If you’re dehydrated it will be slow to snap back into place. Secondly, hydration has been shown to contribute to greater skin thickness and skin hydration.

Fatigue and Crankiness. Dehydration is the No.1 cause of mid-day fatigue in adults, and for children, the effects are just the same. Irritability, fussiness and fatigue in children have all been linked to dehydration. In fact, the effect dehydration has had on kids’ cognitive abilities has been widely studied. The results: Drinking water has been observed to positively affect kids’ moods[ii].

Headaches. Water-deprivation headaches are very common. Although their origin is not entirely known, it’s been hypothesized that they’re caused by intracranial dehydration and lowered blood volume, which is a result of dehydration. The good news is that water may provide fast relief. One study showed that drinking water provided relief to individuals who were suffering from water-deprivation headaches within 30 minutes to 3 hours[iii].

Salt Craving. Dehydration isn’t just a loss of water in the body. It’s also a loss of electrolytes and salt. Thus, just like the body’s natural thirst response, a craving for salt can be a sign that we’re running low on these nutrients. In fact, that’s why sports drink and hydration beverages like DripDrop contain electrolytes, because salt cravings are more common after intense exercise, when we lose salt through sweat. Be aware, though, that sudden, excessive cravings for salt can also be a sign of more serious conditions, including diabetes and sickle cell anemia.

Bad Breath. When we’re dehydrated, we don’t produce enough saliva[iv]. But saliva serves an important purpose; it’s a natural cleanser of the mouth and teeth. Thus, when we’re dehydrated and not producing enough saliva, bacteria is more likely to grow in the mouth. Bacterial overgrowth, in turn, is a leading cause of bad breath.

[i] Popkin, B. M., D'Anci, K. E., & Rosenberg, I. H. (2010). Water, hydration, and health. Nutrition reviews68(8), 439-458.
[ii] Benton, D. (2011). Dehydration influences mood and cognition: a plausible hypothesis?Nutrients3(5), 555-573.
[iii] Blau, J. N., Kell, C. A., & Sperling, J. M. (2004). Water‐deprivation headache: A new headache with two variantsHeadache: The Journal of Head and Face Pain44(1), 79-83.
[iv] Ship, J. A., & Fischer, D. J. (1997). The relationship between dehydration and parotid salivary gland function in young and older healthy adults. The Journals of Gerontology Series A: Biological Sciences and Medical Sciences52(5), M310-M319.