Thursday, March 24, 2011

The importance of hydration in children's health

Water constitutes more than 90% of our bodies and children are no exception. And any decrease in this quantity can adversely affect the body metabolism. Dehydration is a very serious condition that can affect the blood pressure, heart, and kidneys and can cause major damage if not addressed immediately. We learnt the lesson a very hard way.

April is going to start and so does the heat that is going to increase in the summers. This heat can be very dangerous to children who sometimes are very picky in drinking water and simply do not eat or drink anything when they are busy in playing. And we as parents sometimes miss out on taking stock of the water that our child drinks. We do take a note of the number of times he has taken his food but we sometimes miss out on the very important aspect of water which sometimes results in mild to moderate dehydration in children.

We had gone out to the restaurant on a Saturday afternoon but forgot to put a cap on our little one to cover his ears. That’s it. That was too much for his little body to bear and the hot winds blowing through the day got the better of him and he suffered a mild heat stroke; mild for us but horrible for the poor child. He started with a mild fever at night followed by some mild runny nose. But the next morning, his body was a mini furnace with high temperatures. Needless to say, we were scared out of our wits. Luckily our neighbor is a pediatrician and we never have to wait to get an appointment. We rushed him to her and she gave some initial meds to cool off his body and to give relief from the nose block but even she could not diagnose that it was a condition of dehydration.

His fevers continued for the whole day. I took off from work to take care of him. The next day our peds started him on antibiotic, azithromycin, 3 days course to be given once a day. She thought it to be some sort of infection that might be the cause of his problem. A whole day passed with the antibiotic and still the fevers were running high. The baby was getting very cranky and refusing to even eat or sleep, forget about drinking anything. The lack of food, water, and sleep made him very hard to console and he used to cry like hell making us very scared as to the underlying condition. Finally, we took him again in the night to get another checkup to see if the diagnosis was correct or if he needs any change of medications. This time the doctor was also concerned and she ordered an immediate malaria test. At 10:30 p.m. in the night, I virtually ran with my son in hand to the diagnostic center. I should thank God to give me such a wonderful child and wife that they never lost their cool even during such adverse conditions. My kid, despite being so small and innocent, he simply had an underlying determination and resistance and somehow seemed to understand the pain we were in. He was resisting the illness like a diehard soldier. We took him to the diagnostic center where the doctor, with the help of two of his associates, took his blood sample. It was a real torture for my kid but more so for us. We could not bear the picture of our child being held by three people and a big needle inserted into his veins to get a huge quantity of blood. I mean, does he even have that much blood to test? I know I am wrong and it is the father in me who is so afraid but my kid put up a really brave face. He did cry but as soon as I held him up in my arms he stopped somehow afterwards.

After half an hour the reports came and we all heaved a sigh of relief. The test was negative for malaria. It was then that I took the reports to the doctor and she finally diagnosed it as a case of mild heat stroke and advised us to give him plenty of water. Technically, a child should drink 100 mL of water per kilogram of his body, i.e. my son who weighs around 10 kg should be drinking 1L of water while he was drinking hardly the half that amount.

We started intensive oral rehydration program for him. We gave him ORS every 30 minutes. It started to show wonders. The thing that huge doses of paracetamol was not able to do, i.e. to reduce his fever, a simple bottle of water did in just 2 to 3 hours. Now that’s why we call water as nature’s gift, isn’t it? After one day of ORS, he showed a big improvement with his fever going out completely and his activity returning to normal. We both thanked the almighty for everything. I know, it might seem a little stupid for us to be so hyper on such small things, but the emotion of a love for our kid sometimes magnifies the effect of even common ailments which are otherwise harmless or sometimes even necessary for developing that immune system that will help him in the long run.

So, friends always remember the formula of 100 mL/kg of body weight and make sure your kid drinks plenty of water and don’t worry if he wets your bed. After all, that’s what kids are for. If he is not going to do it, then who is? Definitely not you!

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