For the full development of the child it is necessary to drink a sufficient amount of liquid. Water is the main source of liquid for both children and adults. Therefore safe, high-quality and accessible drinking water plays a vital role.
The quality of the drinking water for children
According to the recommendations of the World Health Organization, the drinking water (including water consumed by children) must to meet the international standards.
The drinking water quality standards in Latvia are regulated by:
- WHO Guidelines for drinking-water quality;
- The Drinking Water Directive 98/83/EC;
- MK noteikumi Nr. 671 “Dzeramā ūdens obligātās nekaitīguma un kvalitātes prasības, monitoringa un kontroles kārtība”.
Although the above-listed standards set the water quality indicators and their maximum permissible norms, the peculiarities of children’s metabolism also must be taken into account. Many substances are more toxic for children than for adults such as manganese, lead and mercury.
Water daily norm for children
According to the World Health Organization, the daily norm of water for children are:
- Children up to six months receives liquid mainly from breast milk and/or baby food.
- From the beginning of feeding until the age of two children use water whenever they want, it must be offered regularly.
- Children from 2 to 4 years need to drink about 1 liter (2-4 glasses) of water per day.
- Children aged 4 to 8 years are recommended to consume 1.1 – 1.3 liters of water per day.
- Teenagers aged 9 to 13 are recommended to consume 1.3-1.5 liters of water per day.
- Children over 14 years old (the same as adults) should drink at least 1.5-1.7 liters of water per day.
Several factors influence the daily water intake for children. One of the most important factors is the child’s weight – children with more weight need to consume more water. A factor such as physical activity should also be taken into account – if the child plays sports, the need for water will be bigger. The increased need for water will be also during the hot periods of the year.
Signs of dehydration
Parents often do not notice that the child is thirsty or notice it too late. The dehydration process can be determined by several signs:
- willingness to drink greedily;
- cold and damp extremities;
- lack of urination or dark urine;
- weak pulse.
It is important to note that the possibility of dehydration increases in the following conditions: if the weather is hot outside, if the child has increased body temperature or signs of diarrhea.
What can be dangerous in water?
It is not recommended for children to drink the water from surface sources without prior treatment. Infectious diseases spread through the water, which is a frequent cause of child mortality.
Nitrates in the water oxidize methemoglobin. For the adults methemoglobin content in the blood up to 50% significantly worsens well-being but for young children methemoglobin content of 20% – 40% often leads to death. Nitrates are especially dangerous in the first 3 months of life. Another risk factor for nitrates is the development of goiter (a thyroid disorder). It is not recommended to give untreated well water to children as the nitrate content in it can exceed the limit several dozen times.
Heavy metals in the water can also affect children’s health. Manganese has a negative effect on skeletal formation, while lead can cause anemia. For children to develop fully, heavy metals should not be present in the water. Read more about heavy metals in our previous article.
What kind of water should drink children?
Formally tap water is safe for human consumption but there are two reasons for concern about the suitability of untreated tap water for children. First, while the water is moving through the water pipe it is saturated with impurities that accumulate on the surface of the pipes. These impurities are oxidized by residual chlorine which is added to water for long-term disinfection and it turns into carcinogenic organochlorine compounds. Second, the drinking water standards allow certain amounts of contaminants including iron, heavy metals and nitrates.
Wells and natural springs
It is strictly forbidden to use such untreated water for children because in the most cases it has an increased level of nitrates, it tends to contain microbiological contamination, heavy metals and pesticides. The water composition can change very quickly (even during the day), especially during the spring period. Such water quality control is usually not carried out or is carried out infrequently.
Depending on the depth of the well and the regional characteristics of the underground, the quality of the water in such a source can be both excellent (usually these are artesian wells with a depth of more than 120-150 meters) and poor. In areas where mineral extraction is carried out even water from artesian wells at a depth of 300 meters can be dangerous, they are also contaminated with heavy metals.
Bottled water for babies is mostly obtained using the reverse osmosis technology and mineralization with calcium and magnesium salts. Proven mineral water springs and artesian wells are also used. Responsible manufacturers constantly monitor the water quality and the sterility of the process. Such water for children’s food and drinking is sterile and does not need to be boiled before use.
Water from the reverse osmosis filters
Reverse osmosis system membrane removes 99.8% of impurities from the water, including viruses and bacteria as well as heavy metal ions, nitrates, etc. It does not need to be boiled before giving to children.
Advantages of filtered water:
- water is always available;
- stable and reliable water quality;
- it is not necessary to boil the water;
- the cost of a liter of filtered water is lower compared to bottled water;
- less plastic which is harmful to the environment.
The amount of liquid mentioned in the article refers to the water. It is not recommended for children to consume other sweetened beverages such as sweet carbonated water and juices.
The maximum permissible amount of the sugar for adults is 10% of the daily ration or 50 grams (12 teaspoons). According to the World Health Organization, it is recommended to reduce the amount of sugar to 25 grams per day (6 teaspoons).
The permissible amount of sugar for children of different ages:
|Amount of sugar (10% of daily calories)|
|Grams (girls / boys)||
Teaspoons (girls / boys)
4 – 5
The consequences of excessive sugar consumption are:
2. diabetes and hypertension;
To reduce the amount of sugar in drinks children should have 24/7 access to the drinking water both at home and at school/kindergarten. A reverse osmosis system provides continuous access to the water at home. On the other hand, for schools and public places a good solution is to install a dispenser or a small “fountain”.
Read also: What does the water analysis say.