If you have a child between the ages of 6 and 19, there's a good chance he or she is dehydrated. In a new study, Harvard scientists analyzed data on more than 4,000 students in that age range collected via the National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey—among many other things, it includes urine tests that reveal hydration. The researchers found that 54.5% of those kids were "inadequately" hydrated, with boys being more at risk than girls. As lead researcher Erica Kenney notes to NPR, "This doesn't mean we're saying kids are dropping like flies or ... need to go to the hospital or anything like that." But even slight dehydration can alter one's mood, energy level, and maybe even his or her ability to learn, she says. Headaches and irritability can also occur, Today reports, and one expert tells HealthDay News that kids are more susceptible to dehydration than adults.
But what Kenney found even more "astounding" was that about 25% of the kids apparently don't drink any water, "and even among the kids who were drinking water—they weren't drinking very much of it." The Institute of Medicine recommends kids and teens drink anywhere from 7 to 14 cups of water per day, depending on their gender, age, and size, and "that's total water," meaning other beverages and foods (think a juicy orange) count, per Kenney. Kenney sees an obstacle in getting kids to drink more: our dated schools, which are sometimes worried about older plumbing and lead. And, a pediatrician notes, some kids "even avoid consuming water because they prefer not to use the bathrooms at school." (Click for a recent big change to our water.)