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After a wet and cool spring in Cayuga County, the temperatures are finally starting to rise. Summer in central New York is here.

By now, we’ve all been taught the importance of staying properly hydrated — especially during the summer months. Our parents lectured us on the importance of drinking eight glasses of water a day. We were told in health class as teenagers and again as adults just by scrolling through our news feeds and reading advertisements for bottled water. Despite these constant reminders, a study released earlier this year confirmed that kids aren’t getting enough H20, and it has another consequence besides dehydration: childhood obesity.

The study showed that as many as one in five kids between the ages of 2 and 19 aren’t consuming any water on a daily basis. On its face, that in itself doesn’t contribute to weight gain in children. The problem arises when kids and adolescents replace water with sugary drinks such as artificially sweetened juices, sodas and teas.

Roughly 8,400 children participated in the U.S. National Health and Nutrition Examination Surveys earlier this decade, between 2011 and 2012, and 2015 and 2016. The 20% of children who did not consume any water were consuming about 200 calories per day in sugary drinks. Kids that did drink water consumed 100 calories per day from sugary drinks (beverages such as 100% fruit juices, diet soda, coffee and unsweetened tea were not included in the study). An extra 100 calories per day seems like a drop in the bucket, until you realize that over the course of a month, that’s an extra pound.

According to healthycny.org, between 2014 and 2016 over 34% of Cayuga County elementary students were overweight or obese. As children age, the numbers increased. During the same time period, over 40% of adolescents in grades 7-10 were classified as overweight or obese. This rate has increased from 37.5% and is higher than the New York state average of 35.8%.

Dr. Chakrapani Irri, a physician at Summit Pediatrics, has seen a rise in children consuming sugary drinks.

“They don’t like the taste of the water, that is the standard answer,” Dr. Irri said. “If I’m used to candy, I want the candy.”

Adding more water to your child’s intake is as simple as, well, adding more water to your child’s intake — but there are additional ways. For example, adding fresh fruits and vegetables to your child’s diet like watermelon (obviously), strawberries, cucumbers, peppers and tomatoes each have a water content of over 90%. Conversely, decreasing your child’s consumption of highly processed foods, which can be both dehydrated and have a higher amount of sodium, is also helpful. Dr. Irri suggests adding fresh fruit to tap water, adding the additional benefit of nutrition on top of hydration.

To get a child started on the right path, Dr. Irri says that you can start to familiarize babies with drinking water at a young age.

“In babies, I advise water to be introduced around 3 months of age,” Dr. Irri said. “About half an ounce twice per day and increase slowly. During the summer they need (water) more frequently to prevent dehydration.”

Finally, be aware of the risks that sugary drinks pose. Besides obesity, consuming sugary drinks has been linked to increased instances of Type 2 diabetes, heart disease and cavities.

Ultimately, Dr. Irri suggests drinking two liters (or about half a gallon) of water per day.

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Michelle Milewski is the executive office coordinator at East Hill Family Medical, a federally qualified health center offering dental, reproductive health, internal medicine and pediatric services. Located at 144 Genesee St., Auburn, the center can be contacted at easthillmedical.com or (315) 253-8477.

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