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Water : Essential Life-Sustaining Nutrient

Most people could survive a few weeks without food, but no more than a week without water. With the sweltering summer months upon us, it’s important to be conscious of this vital nutrient and maintain proper hydration.

Why is water so important?

Water plays many important functions in our bodies. In fact, it is so important that a drop of merely 2 percent can trigger signs of mild dehydration, like hazy short-term memory or fatigue.

Some of the jobs water plays in the body include:

-Regulating internal body temperature
-Transporting essential nutrients to organs and tissues
-Moving oxygen into cells
-Removing waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements
-Protecting the spinal cord, joints and other sensitive tissues from injury
-Helping to prevent arthritis and other joint problems

How much water do my children and I need?

Healthy people meet their fluid needs through drinking water and other beverages when thirsty, and through foods containing 85 to 95 percent water such as tomatoes, spinach, oranges and other citrus fruits. Water-rich foods provide about 20 percent of our total daily water intake, according to the Mayo Clinic.

According to the Institute of Medicine, daily water requirements vary depending on age, sex and health status. For adults, recommendations vary between 11 plus cups of water for women and 15 plus cups for men. For children age 4 to 18, the amount of water ranges from 5 cups to 11 cups daily.

Keep in mind that these guidelines include food and beverages other than water. Those with certain medical conditions, such as kidney failure, may have fluid restrictions. Consult with your health care provider if you have questions regarding your fluid requirements.

To stay hydrated, it is important to drink water even before feeling thirsty. Thirst is the body’s internal signal to prevent dehydration.

Should babies drink water?

Newborns and infants up to 3 months of age do not need extra water. In fact, offering water regularly to infants less than 3 months of age puts them at risk of over-hydration or “too much” water. Most babies will meet their daily water needs through breast milk or infant formula.

Sick infants and children experiencing vomiting and diarrhea are at risk of dehydration if fluids are not replaced. Instead of water or juice, your child’s health care provider may recommend an oral electrolyte replacement solution such as Pedialyte to prevent dehydration. These solutions contain glucose and minerals (sodium, potassium and chloride) called electrolytes which are necessary to maintain fluid balance in the body’s cells. They do not prevent vomiting or diarrhea but will prevent dehydration. Consult with your child’s pediatrician before feeding an oral electrolyte solution to children under the age of two.

Water is a vital resource for good health. Remember, your body needs a fresh supply of water every day to function as designed. So, ramp up your daily water intake and your body will do wonders for you!