Staying hydrated is fundamental at all stages of life and especially in infancy and childhood. When traveling by car, particularly in the summer, we should be especially aware of the amount of liquid that young children need, since they can get dehydrated quite easily.
Of course, the same amount of water will not be needed in winter as in summer. The heat leads to sweating and the need to rehydrate. Young children, especially those who are breastfeeding, are among those most likely to suffer from dehydration. In fact, a healthy, breast-fed baby loses more liquid than an adult in proportion to its body weight. Moreover, they have immature renal systems that need to eliminate more liquids.
Experts recommend that babies ingest fluids equivalent to roughly 15% of their body weight. Newborn babies have a higher percentage of fluid in their body.
Breastfeeding children do not need to drink water since their mother's milk provides them with all the liquid they need. For this reason, we should bear in mind that during a trip the baby should be breastfed whenever it needs it (on demand) or when it is considered necessary, given that breast milk has mineral salts and electrolytes that prevent dehydration from occurring. During the trip we will need to stop the car at a rest stop whenever it is necessary to give the child this important and crucial hydration, especially when traveling by car, since the heat means that the child will need more hydration and will need to be breastfed more often.
Past 6 or 7 months old, the child may also need to also drink water. Babies being bottle-fed can be given extra mineral water by bottle too. As the child grows, the hydration will not only come from the mother's milk or water, but also through eating other foodstuffs. However, the right amount of hydration can vary based on the child's characteristics and, of course, the heat. On a car trip in the summer heat, the child may need water much more frequently. The heat causes the body to lose more liquid through sweating and therefore the fluids must be constantly replenished. However, it is not only sweating which leads to fluid loss. If the child has diarrhea he or she must be given liquids much more frequently.
In addition to water, the child can drink other natural liquids such as lemonade, juices, fruit or milkshakes.
During journeys, these liquids should be offered to the child even if they do not request them or feel thirsty. Some of the symptoms of severe dehydration are a lack of tears, a dry mouth or tongue, sunken eyes, a grayish skin color, decreased urination and symptoms of lethargy or irritability.
The temperature is also very important. A high temperature inside the car increases sweating and consequently, fluid loss. We should also be aware that putting on the air conditioning can increase the risk of dehydration because of the consequent dryness of the air and the low atmospheric moisture.
Therefore, the child should travel in appropriate clothing which does not make the child hot, and is comfy, breathable, made of cotton and allows the child to move freely. The temperature inside the car should be around 21 to 23 degrees centigrade, which is a comfortable temperature that is neither too hot nor too cold, so the child can travel in comfort. We should also ensure that the air conditioning is not blowing directly on the child.
Furthermore, we should avoid heavy meals during the journey and it is a good idea to take various bottles of mineral water in the car in order to regularly hydrate the child during the trip.