We all know drinking water is important. After air, it is pretty much what we need to survive. We mostly consist of water and everything in our bodies work better with an adequate amount of water in them. Try explaining this to a toddler. Try explaining this to a toddler who is sick or has just had their tonsils out. Now try explaining this to a toddler who has discovered they can clamp their mouth shut and no one can make them drink, not even Mom. And whoa, this is so cool to have power over Mom!
This daunting task is universal throughout time and cultures and is more easily dealt with when you plan ahead rather than try to persuade your child to drink when they’re at risk of getting dehydrated. Also, dehydration can cause irritability and a killer headache, which brings out the best in absolutely no one. So, I’ve prepared a few tips for parents:
Drink water: Your child watches you closely. They’re going to be more inclined to drink if they see you drink, and they will be more inclined to drink water if they see you drink water. Plus, your body will appreciate it!
Serve it up cold: Water tastes better cold. Add some ice cubes because they’re fun. You can also add a little juice to the water in the ice cube tray to make the cubes even more fun with a splash of color.
Add slices of fruit: if it’s age appropriate, fruit adds just a touch of freshness and may also encourage more exploration of different fruits.
Find a fun water bottle: There are tons of water containers to choose from. Letting your child pick out a water bottle will help encourage their water intake. They might be inclined to pick one with a fun character, something “pretty,” or, if they’re older, something that fits best in their backpack or clips easiest on their sports bag.
Start early: Habits are best developed and maintained when started early. Have your child’s first beverages be milk or water so they begin to associate water with the way to quench thirst.
If your physician has directed you to encourage your child to drink because they are at risk of being dehydrated, here are some additional tips:
Encourage them to talk: When you say a few words, you swallow your saliva without thinking about it to be better understood. This is especially helpful if they are choosing not to swallow because of pain from a sore throat.
Licking feels less overwhelming than drinking: This is partially why Popsicles work so well. Frozen Popsicles are frozen liquids.
Use sibling rivalry: If there are other children in the household, let them have the popsicles as well. No kid wants a sibling to get something they aren’t getting.
Blenders are a giant toy: They have buttons, smash stuff and make a lot of noise—a really awesome toy! Experiment with smoothies.
Schedule tea party time: Drink out of novel containers, tea party dishes, syringes–whatever is appropriate and fun.
Use sticker charts: For kids, it is hard to understand why they need to drink, especially when they don’t feel well, so sticker charts can work great. We are all well motivated when we can easily see how we will benefit from our choices. Make a chart with your child and give them a sticker for whatever amount a fluid swallowed seems reasonable. Create a “sticker store” where they can “buy” things with various amounts of stickers. These items could be something like a coloring book or maybe an activity like choosing a book to be read to, whatever works best in your family.
Communicate with your doctor: They need to know how much your child is drinking so they can best care for your child. They will also be helpful on letting you know what the goals should be for the amount of fluids your child needs.
Communicate with your child: Don’t underestimate your child’s capacity to understand that drinking is important. Even at a very young age children are actively involved in taking care of their bodies: baths and brushing teeth are good examples. They are able to understand that drinking is one more thing they can do for themselves to feel their best.
Jeri Kayser has been a Child Life Specialist at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota since 1985. Her educational background is in child development and psychology. She has three children who have been a great source of anecdotes to help illustrate developmental perspective. They’re good sports about it.
Flu season arrived early this year and with more severity than in recent years. According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 48 states had reported influenza during the week of Jan. 6-12. There were nine influenza-related pediatric deaths during that week, bringing the total to 29.
We have seen a record number of influenza cases at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. We’re seeing lab-confirmed influenza cases at rates higher than our highest week during H1N1. We’ve taken steps here to help prevent spreading the flu, including updating our visitor guidelines.
The No. 1 way to prevent the flu is to get vaccinated. And it’s not too late for that. We have more tips on preventing the flu here. In case the flu has reached your family, here are some helpful tips for taking care of your child.
What’s the difference between the cold and the flu and how can I tell?
Sometimes it’s hard to know whether a child has a cold or the flu because she may cough, have a runny nose, sore throat and fatigue with both. With the flu, a child tends to have a high fever. It comes on more suddenly with more severe fatigue and body aches. Colds come on more gradually, and many kids may feel well enough to keep playing and going to school. Clinics use a rapid nose swab test to determine if someone has influenza.
What should I do if I suspect influenza?
Most cases of influenza are mild and can be managed at home with rest, plenty of fluids, and fever-reducing medicines. Tender-loving care is good medicine, too. Most over-the-counter “cough and cold” medicines do not help a sick child get better faster and won’t have much effect on influenza. Sometimes, the flu can make a child very ill and a visit to the clinic or emergency room is necessary.
When should I take my child to the Emergency Department?
Take your child to be checked if there is difficulty breathing (fast, grunt-sounding, noisy breathing or small breaths), the color looks bad (pale or bluish), they aren’t drinking fluids often or urinating at least once every eight hours or just aren’t themselves and you’re worried. Signs of dehydration are dry lips, sunken eyes, sleepiness or crankiness. Children who seem like they’re getting better and then suddenly get worse should be taken to the Emergency Department immediately. This could mean they have another infection in addition to the flu.
What are the best ways to get my child’s fever down when she has the flu?
Fever is one of the tools our immune system uses to kill germs. However, children with high fever can feel quite miserable, get crabby, have trouble waking up and may drink less fluids causing dehydration. If you can’t keep the fever down with a fever-reducing medicine such as Tylenol or Ibuprofen, then the child should be taken to the clinic or Emergency Department.
Is there anything else I can do to help make my child more comfortable?
You can keep your child home from day care, school, sports or other activities and have them rest early in their illness and until they show signs of getting back to “their normal.” If your child doesn’t want to eat regular meals, don’t insist, but do make sure they drink small amounts of fluids every hour to prevent dehydration.
Is there anything I can do to help my child recover more quickly?
There is an anti-viral medicine called Tamiflu that can be given to children as young as 2 weeks of age. This is used if the child has moderate or severe influenza and works best if given in the first two days of illness. Tamiflu usually cuts the severity and number of days of illness in half.
How long will my child be contagious?
Influenza is most contagious the day before symptoms present through about day five of illness. Your child should stay home from school during this time. After viral illnesses, kids can have lingering muscle or body aches and really do need time to rest and recover before rushing back to school. Depending on the severity of the flu, this may be a few days to a few weeks. Most kids recover within a week. Most schools require that your child be fever-free (without the help of medicines) for two days before returning to school or day care. For more information, visit the CDC.
Patsy Stinchfield is a nurse practitioner and the director of the Infectious Disease Division at Children’s. Follow her on Twitter and watch her videos on Clear.MD.
I’ve had a very eventful 14 years. My life has been full of happy, exciting and life-changing events that have made me who I am today. One event stands out that has changed my life the most.
When I was 10, I was sent to Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota with mysterious symptoms that my pediatrician could not figure out. At Children’s I saw many doctors including an infectious disease specialist and a rheumatologist. After many tests and procedures, the rheumatologist determined I had juvenile dermatomyositis. It’s a rare auto immune disease that affects the muscles and tissues of your body. My case was one of the worst my doctor had ever seen and from that point on, I started my 49-day stay at Children’s in St. Paul.
Karlos, the pet therapy dog, visits Ally.
It was no fun lying there in the hospital bed 24 hours a day, seven days a week. I could not move (my muscles were so inflamed) and that made it even less fun because all I could do was watch TV. By the second day, I felt like I had pretty much watched everything. Luckily, many people came to visit me including therapy dog teams, volunteers, and my family. Just seeing their faces made my days easier.
I loved visits from pet therapy dogs the most. I looked forward to their visits every day. I missed my own dog from home so much and their visits helped me to miss her a little less. A special occupational therapist (OT) at Children’s learned how much I loved seeing the dogs and started to use them in her therapy sessions with me. At first all I could do was pet the dogs, but as my muscles got stronger, I would brush them, dress them, paint their toe nails and play tic-tac-toe on their backs. It was so much fun; I hardly knew I was working on just the things the OT wanted me to learn. The dogs helped me to get better, and I loved working with them.
We were so inspired by how much the therapy dogs aided my recovery that my family began training our family dog, and we now have a therapy dog of our very own! In March 2011, our dog Angel passed her Pet Partners certification and now visits Children’s each week with my mom. This summer I got a new puppy of my own that I’m training to hopefully be our next therapy dog. After I finally left the hospital, I still got to work with a therapy dog in my OT sessions as an outpatient. I had fun doing obstacle courses and many other activities with the dogs. It was so much fun that I looked forward to my OT sessions, and never once told my mom that I did not want to go.
Ally, Angel and Mickey
Throughout my life, there have been joys and challenges. During the rough times, I have always found a way to make the best of them. I know that with the support of my family and friends I can get through anything. As I get older I will carry the lessons I have learned throughout my life with me and share them with all the people I meet along the way. I am hopeful that I can become an OT myself someday and work with therapy dogs and their owners to help other kids just like me!
Ally, 14, is a Youth Advisory Council member at Children’s. You can hear her talk more about pet therapy here. Learn about our Pets Assisting with Healing (PAWH) Volunteer Program here.
Mark, middle, cuts the ribbon at the opening of the new teen lounge.
I was born with transposition of the arteries in my heart and had surgery to repair them when I was four days old. In fifth grade, I had another surgery to repair a narrowing of my aorta. And in November 2010, I got a pacemaker. It’s possible I’ll have another surgery in a few years to make my aortic valve stronger because it’s expanding and beginning to tear.
I’m only 18.
Given the number of medical issues I’ve faced during my short life and still face, I’ve learned how important it is to advocate for yourself in the hospital. It’s important for a few reasons. First, your doctors and nurses then know what’s going on with you and can help you. Second, you can help the hospital itself improve.
One of the ways I advocate is by participating in the Youth Advisory Council (YAC) at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota. I’ve served on YAC for three years. I love Children’s, but I joined YAC because I thought I could make the hospital even better.
I believe I’ve made a difference in the lives of patients at Children’s. One way I’ve done that is by helping with the creation of the new teen lounge on the Minneapolis campus.
At meetings, I’m not one to be shy. I’m always asking questions. When I know a friend is going to the hospital, I ask him or her to give me feedback. How was the visit? Could Children’s have given better care? How? I bring the answers back to YAC.
Someday, I see myself advocating for others. And it’ll be at the bedside. I’m interested in going to medical school and specializing in cardiology. After my years of experience being a patient and a YAC member, I think I’d bring a unique perspective to the medical field.
I often tell people, “If you want something done, the only way people can know you want something done is to tell them. You’re the only person stopping something from happening.”
Mark Olson, 18, is a Youth Advisory Council Member at Children’s Hospitals and Clinics of Minnesota and a patient.
Quality of Care
We measure, publicly report, and continuously improve our performance.