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Children risking dehydration around during term-time

19th September 2013 Print

Millions of schoolchildren could be at risk of dehydration – after a report found many go for as long as 18 hours without a drink. Experts warned of the dangers amid the lingering heat-wave which shows no sign of abating as the nation’s kids begin a new term this week.

The study showed more than one in four parents don’t give their child a drink at breakfast, while more than two thirds said their children are not allowed to leave the classroom to get a drink during lessons, with primary schoolchildren having to rely on parents, teachers or other caregivers to provide drinks.

This means lunchtime appears to be the first opportunity for many children to hydrate themselves since having a drink the previous evening.

In addition, when lunchtime arrives, less than 40% of parents said their children’s school provided water on the tables and fewer than 50% use water fountains.

The findings emerged from new research carried out by the Natural Hydration Council (NHC) which surveyed 2,000 parents of primary school children across the UK.

Nutritionist and advisor to the NHC, Dr Emma Derbyshire, said: ”It is certainly concerning that some children may be going for up to 18 hours before getting their first drink of the day.

”Provision of water for children in schools is a complex issue, but an important one which needs further exploration to determine the best solutions.

”Children are at a greater risk of dehydration than adults as they have higher water requirements in relation to their body weight.

”In addition, children don’t always recognise the early stages of thirst, which can make them particularly vulnerable to becoming dehydrated, especially during times that can drive up their body fluid losses, for example, in the school playground, or during warm weather.”

In addition, almost half of the parents who took part admitted they didn’t know that water could help boost their child’s concentration.

However, recent research by Dr Caroline Edmonds, Senior Lecturer at the School of Psychology, The University of East London, suggested that children who receive additional water could improve their ability in key classroom activities such as handwriting and copying text, as well as maintain their attention

Dr Edmonds said: ”Evidence suggests that once children arrive at school, 71 per cent do not drink sufficient water throughout the day to counteract the risk of dehydration or even to maintain the hydration level that they had when they arrived at school.

”One of the biggest barriers is that it is still not ‘cool’ or fashionable to drink water in school. The other challenge is increasing accessibility to water, which would help increase consumption both in and out of the classroom.”

With the low levels of water consumption, the research also found that over 60% are having up to three servings of fruit juice per day, 10% are having four or more soft drinks a day, and a quarter of children are drinking up to three smoothies per day.