It’s not yet winter but I’m already feeling the lack of moisture in the air. The winters in Beijing are extremely dry and my nose, my throat, my skin … it affects everything!
Staying hydrated is critical, but not just during the winter months. Our bodies are approximately 60 percent water. Even our bones are over 40 percent water. Lack of water can do a lot more than dry out your skin – it can cause dizziness, headaches, lack of concentration, dry mouth, weakness and fatigue. In extreme cases dehydration can cause an increased heart rate, low blood pressure, nausea, vomiting, and muscle cramps.
For both adults and children, it‘s important to drink plenty of fluids. I can’t emphasize this enough! In Beijing’s winter climate its imperative to drink about 10 glasses of water per day. This works out to be about 2 ½ liters of water for adults. The quantity of water your body needs depends on many things including the amount of physical activity you do, your size, and other foods or drinks you consume. For example, coffee, black teas, and caffeinated sodas don’t count as part of your daily fluid requirement. The caffeine in them acts as a diuretic and will actually cause you to lose water.
Children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults for many reasons; one of them being that their metabolic rate is much faster than adults. This gives off a lot of heat, so it’s harder for them to cool down. Kids need to drink often to help regulate their body temperature. Babies under six months only need breast milk or formula, no extra water or juice. Once a child eats solids they can start to incorporate up to 600ml of extra fluids. Between the ages of 1 and 3 approx 900ml of fluids are required. From ages 4 to 8 kids can drink 1.2 liters, and by age 9 to 13 about 1.6 liters of fluids. Again this is a rough guide and the exact amount of water your little munchkin requires is unique to their individual needs.
If you or your kids don’t normally drink a lot of water, start slowly. Drink one extra glass of water a day and see how you feel. If the idea of drinking plain water doesn’t appeal to you then make water more exciting by slicing lemons or limes and dropping them in a clear pitcher of water. Try flavoring water with fresh mint leaves or sliced cucumber Offer your child frequent sips throughout the day but never force them to drink. It’s best to drink your two liters of water slowly throughout the day. If it’s midnight and you realized you only drank 1 liter don’t run off and chug a liter and a half right before bed.
Leave a sippy cup with water accessible so your child can help him or herself as needed. Remember, small children may not be able to articulate that they’re thirsty. I find my kids love having their own sippy cups. It makes them excited to drink water. I bought some colorful stainless steel ones on our recent trip to Canada. If at all possible avoid plastic bottles or sippy cups, especially the ones containing the chemical Bisphenol-A. BPA leaches into the water and has been linked to reproductive disorders including various cancers. These plastic sippy cups were actually recalled in Canada over a year ago.
There are other things we can do to keep our skin moisturized in dry weather, but I’ll leave that for my next post. – Melissa Rodriguez, B.H.Sc., N.D.
Photo by Anna Wolf of Flickr