Think2Drink H2O

Spot the signs of dehydration in children

Water makes up more than half of a child's body. It is vital children drink enough fluid to maintain a healthy balance.

What is dehydration?

Children become dehydrated by not drinking enough fluid or by losing fluids and not replacing them. If it isn't treated it can get worse and become a serious problem.

Adults need to be a good role model by following this advice.

Good hydration in children

Good hydration can assist in preventing or treating:

Who is at high risk?

A child may be at high risk of dehydration if they:

  • have a raised temperature
  • have vomiting or diarrhoea
  • have swallowing problems
  • aren't given access to fluids after exercise

Young children are reliant on care givers.

Signs and symptoms

Signs of dehydration are visible in a child's urine. Dark and strong smelling urine is a clear sign that your child needs to drink more fluids.

Use the above urine colour chart to check for signs of dehydration. Healthy pee is 1-3, 4-8 must hydrate.

Other symptoms of dehydration include –

  • drinking less than usual
  • low energy levels
  • feeling thirsty
  • urinary tract infections (UTIs)
  • peeing less than 4 times a day or fewer wet nappies
  • tiredness
  • dry mouth/lips
  • fewer or no tears
  • cold or dry skin
  • decrease in concentration
  • poor oral health
  • sunken eyes or sunken soft spot on the head (for babies)

What should children drink?

Aim for six to eight cups or mugs per day. The amount per cup depends on the age of the child:

  • Under 5 years - 120-150ml cup
  • 6 years and above - 250-300ml cup

Fluids could include milk, water and sugar free diluting juice. Water can also be flavoured with mint leaves, ginger, or frozen fruit, however plain water is best.

In addition, some foods are a good source of fluids, such as:

  • water rich fruits such as melons
  • soup
  • ice lollies
  • jelly
  • yoghurt
  • milk pudding

The key is to offer drinks regularly throughout the day. 

If you're concerned about a child

You can help prevent a child from becoming dehydrated by:

  • recognising the early warning signs
  • encouraging them to drink six to eight drinks (vary size according to age) per day e.g offer drinks at meals and also between meals with a snack
  • offering foods that are a good source of fluid (as listed above)