Although the importance of drinking enough water is well known, many families still struggle to drink adequate amounts. A recent survey carried out by Robinsons found that as many as 85% of adults asked weren't drinking the recommended 1.4-2 litres of fluid a day - around 8 glasses. Research also revealed that worryingly 72% of 5-12 year olds aren't getting the fluid they need on a daily basis either.
How much fluid our body needs in a day depends on lots of factors, including our age, gender, height, weight, activity levels and climate, but you may be surprised to hear that on average, a typical adult loses about 2.6 litres per day. The human body can't store water, so for good overall health these losses need to be replenished regularly. The levels of our body fluids are very tightly controlled but, if you drink less than your body loses every day, your body will start to dry out, and that is when you will start to experience your own body's reaction to dehydration. Even very small changes in our fluid balance can make us feel unwell. The brain is made of 75% water, so it's no wonder that dehydration can have a noticeable effect on our ability to function well mentally.
Although a lack of fluid can affect people of all ages, it is a particular concern for children. This is mainly due to the fact a child's perception of thirst isn't as developed as an adult, meaning that many children will often fail to drink enough fluid, unless prompted.
Research carried out found that 49% of parents questioned noticed their children's ability to concentrate and remain engaged noticeably decreased when they didn't drink enough.
The effects of not drinking enough water can show when we lose as little as 1% of our body weight due to water restriction, a stage that usually results in an increased thirst and a dry, sticky mouth. Fluid losses of 2% or more can have a negative effect on our physical and mental performance; symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include dark yellow and strong smelling urine, headaches, sleepiness or fatigue, feeling light headed, stressed, moody, irritable and impatient.
While the short-term effects of dehydration can be counteracted by topping up your fluid intakes and changing your drinking habits, the longer term consequences can cause more serious health difficulties. Ongoing dehydration has been shown to increase the risk of constipation, urinary tract infections and the formation of kidney stones.
On the flipside, if you are well watered, everything in the body functions better, you'll feel energized and less tired, concentrate better and be more alert, and research suggests that children who drink well perform better in attention and memory tests, and handwriting skills at school.
The problem of getting children to drink more fluid can be a difficult one to overcome. Although water is the best drink to stay refreshed (while looking after our teeth and waistlines), as many parents will testify it can be tricky to get children to drink the amount of fluid they need each day in the form of water.
Water from the tap is a great choice, but any drink will help promote hydration. Water is the main ingredient of all drinks - it's present in milk, it's in fruit juices, it's in smoothies, it's in diluted squashes, it's in low calorie and sugar containing soft drinks, and it's even in tea and coffee. Lots of foods like fruits and vegetables, contain water, too!
As well as feeling thirsty, the taste, colour, flavour and temperature of drinks is what often encourages us to drink more often. So, one of the easiest ways to make sure you and your family are consuming adequate intakes of water is to drink from a variety of sources.
Leading by example is also very important in helping your child to make healthy hydration choices. Recent research bought to light the true extent to which children's drinking habits are influenced by their parents'; 66% of parents asked said that if they drank water, herbal tea or low/no added squash their children were more likely to do so too.