A new study made by researchers from the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health has revealed that more than half of children and teens in the U.S. do not get enough hydration likely because they do not drink enough water.

The researchers, whose study was published in the American Journal of Public Health on Thursday, said that the statistics raises concern because inadequate hydration can have crucial implications on the physical and mental health of children.

Even mild dehydration is known to cause unwanted consequences such as irritability, headaches, increased heart rate, dizziness, dry mouth, and poorer physical performance. Experts warn of the impact of dehydration on the brains of children, which could affect their ability to learn.

"The prevalence of inadequate hydration was 54.5%. Significantly higher urine osmolality was observed among boys, non-Hispanic Blacks, and younger children compared with girls, Whites, and older children, respectively," said Erica Kenney, from Harvard T. H. Chan School of Public Health, and colleagues wrote.  

Given the unwanted implications of not drinking enough water, parents are encouraged to do things that could get their children to drink more water.

Lauren Graf, from the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, suggests enhancing the taste of plain water by placing fresh orange, lime or lemons slices in a pitcher of water and leave this in the fridge. She explained that the fruits add a subtle hint of flavor without adding sugar to water.

Graf also said that parents should limit the amount of sweetened beverages that their children drink because regular consumption of these drinks trains children's palate to crave for sweet beverages and could discourage them from drinking water because this could already be too bland for their taste.

"Reducing intake of sugary beverages can help retrain the palate to crave less sugar," Graf said.

Ensuring that children have with them a bottle of water when they go to school or a friend's house can also encourage kids to drink water more frequently because the water is accessible.

Parents can also make water look more appealing by using an attractive cup, or those with their children's favorite character. While this won't work among adults, it is one way of encourage young children to consume more water.

Adults should also set a good example to children.  Children are more likely to drink water if they see their parents drink water rather than sodas and juices.

Photo: Katherine Johnson | Flickr

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