Daily Checkup: Drinking water cuts youngsters’ risk of painful deposits
Summer is peak dehydration season, so now is a good time to make sure your kids are drinking enough water. Besides the familiar problems of irritability and heat exhaustion, dehydration can lead to the formation of kidney stones, even in children.
WHO’S MOST AT RISK
Summer is peak dehydration season, so now is a good time to make sure your kids are drinking enough water. Besides the familiar problems of irritability and heat exhaustion, dehydration can lead to the formation of kidney stones, even in children
“Most people, adults and kids, just aren’t drinking enough water to properly process the minerals that are coursing through our body,” says Mount Sinai’s Dr. Grace Hyun.
“Kidney stones are salt deposits that form in the urinary tract when urine concentration is off balance, which in kids is usually due to dehydration,” says Hyun. In the last few decades, it has become increasingly common for kids to be diagnosed with kidney stones.
A body’s normal hydration can be disrupted in three ways. “The most common ways are the intake of too little liquid or too much salt,” says Hyun. “A minority of patients are born with a faulty mechanism for maintaining correct salt levels.”
The kidney stone is made of a combination of the minerals normally found in the blood. Despite the presence of calcium, drinking milk is not a primary factor that leads to kidney stones.
When kids develop urological problems, whether urinary incontinence or kidney stones, the underlying cause is almost always that they aren’t drinking enough water. “It can be hard to get kids to drink water — so often they say, ‘Water doesn’t taste good,’?” says Hyun. “I know it’s a challenge for parents, so I recommend drinking water with every meal and not keeping any other beverages in the refrigerator.” To prevent urological problems, Hyun recommends drinking four to five glasses of water a day, which should lead to urination every two and a half to three hours.
ESSENTIALS – WATER
Some children form kidney stones due to an underlying cause they were born with. “If the stones are due to an inborn metabolic disorder, they could drink all the water in the world and still have kidney stones,” says Hyun. “In these cases kids need to receive medical treatment.”
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Kidney stones present themselves in the same way in children and adults. “The symptoms can be quite acute: flank pain, nausea, vomiting and sometimes blood in the urine,” says Hyun. “The classic kidney stone pain is a renal-colic pain that starts in the flank and radiates around to the lower abdomen — you can’t get into a comfortable position and it is very painful.” Usually doctors use ultrasound or a noncontrast CT scan for diagnosis.
It’s not the kidney stones themselves that cause pain. “It’s when the stone suddenly blocks the ureter or flow of urine, which causes a backup of pressure that patients feel real pain,” says Hyun. “It’s tougher to diagnose kidney stones in those kids who have vague abdominal pain — because lots of healthy kids have a nonspecific pain.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
Get Informed. Start with the American Urological Association (www.urologyhealth.org) for user-friendly search engines and a toll-free hotline: 1-800-828-7866.
Eat Less Salt. “There’s a lot more salt in processed foods than in a home-cooked meal,” says Hyun, “Poorer diets and the obesity epidemic probably play a role in the increase we’re seeing in pediatric kidney stones.”
Drink Enough Water. “WATER, WATER, WATER, AND IF YOU DRINK A GLASS OF ANOTHER LIQUID, THAT DOESN’T COUNT,” SAYS HYUN, “4-5 GLASSES OF WATER A DAY IS AN ACHIEVABLE GOAL.”
Recognize Dehydration. The rule of thumb for maintaining urological health is that everyone–men, women, and kids–should urinate every 2.5-3 hours. “Urine that’s bright yellow, dark, or has a strong odor is a sign of dehydration,” says Hyun.
Grace Hyun Grace Hyun is a pediatric urologist who treats children for problems ranging from congenital disorders to kidney stones. An assistant professor of urology and pediatrics, she performs over 300 surgeries a year.
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