The Ultimate Guide to Electrolytes for Kids
- Electrolytes are essential minerals to keep us hydrated and maintain other key processes.
- Heavy exercise and illnesses can deplete electrolytes.
- You can get electrolytes through a healthy diet.
- When your little one needs a boost, look toward healthy electrolyte drinks rather than sugar-laden energy drinks.
To the little ones, “electrolyte” sounds like a big word on a vocab test. While its spelling is important, more important is knowing the benefits of electrolytes for kids.
Adults may know electrolytes commonly appear in certain energy drinks and all oral rehydration salts. These come in handy when your body loses too much fluids after physical activity or a bout of illness. In the same way, kids may suffer from electrolyte imbalance from time to time.
Ahead, we'll explore what electrolytes for kids are, how you can determine if your loved one is getting enough of them, and what to do if they aren't.
What Are Electrolytes for Kids?
Just like we need water to stay hydrated, “electrolytes” is a catch-all term for the essential minerals your child needs to thrive. Flash back to grade school science — or helping your older kids with their chemistry homework — you’ve likely come across words like “sodium,” “potassium,” and “calcium.” Ding, ding, ding! You’ve just listed a few of the electrolytes that can be found in your blood, sweat, and pee (sounds gross, but it's true).
So, what’s all the hype with electrolytes? Simple: They are your child’s safeguard against dehydration. These electrically charged minerals help balance the optimal amount of fluids inside our bodies to keep us hydrated. On top of that, electrolytes also help regulate other important biological functions, ranging from muscle contraction to nerve activity. Basically, these small but mighty molecules pack a punch.
For a detailed look at which electrolyte does what, we’ve listed four common ones below:
- Sodium: An all-important electrolyte that helps maintain your body’s fluids from head to toe, preventing dehydration.
- Potassium: This electrolyte acts alongside sodium for optimal hydration levels and blood pressure regulation. If you aren't careful, potassium imbalance can lead to muscle weakness, cramps, and tiredness.
- Calcium: This essential mineral is needed for muscle contraction, nerve activity, blood clotting, and hormone production.
- Magnesium: This electrolyte plays a part in muscle activity, energy metabolism, and optimal brain functioning.
As you can see, electrolytes are essential to our health and wellness. If your kid has been acting up lately, it may not be due to too much homework. Rather, it could be their body battling electrolyte imbalance (see next section).
Is Your Little One Getting Enough Electrolytes?
If your child ever came home after a hot day of soccer dragging their feet (and possibly muddying up your just-vacuumed floor in the process), they may be dehydrated. In this case, you can blame it on electrolyte imbalance.
When you exercise vigorously, puke, or have diarrhea, your body loses significant amounts of electrolytes through your sweat, vomit, and loose stools. For example, a perspiring person loses large quantities of sodium and chloride, followed by potassium, calcium, and magnesium in smaller amounts. Not replenishing the lost minerals in a timely manner quickly results in electrolyte imbalance.
But before you stock your pantry with your local grocery’s supply of sports drinks, we want to stop you there. For most kids, a healthy diet and ample fluids (think plain water and fruit juices without added sugars) are enough to replenish — and maintain — their body’s electrolyte levels. (Now you have even more reason to convince them to eat their fresh fruits and veggies!)
That said, there are times when kids and teenagers may need a li’l boost of electrolytes. For example, when your sick child has thrown up, has the “runs,” or both (*silently groaning at the clean-up duty*). Even when your kid is well, they can still suffer from electrolyte imbalance when they sweat up a storm during playtime, especially on hot summer days.
In these instances, your kid may be experiencing mild to severe dehydration that can manifest as:
- A dry mouth
- Sunken-looking eyes
- Being cranky or not like their usual self
- Complaints of sleepiness or dizziness
- Little to no tears when the waterworks turn on
Keep in mind that babies and young children can’t always vocalize their pains very well. So, on top of the symptoms mentioned above, you’ll also need to check for other signs of dehydration. Look out for fewer wet diapers and/or a sunken, soft spot on the top of their head, which is medically known as a fontanelle.
If you suspect your loved one is suffering from chronic dehydration, immediately consult your pediatrician for next steps.
How to Keep Electrolytes for Kids in Check
Making sure your kid gets enough electrolytes is easy-peasy as long as you know what you’re dealing with. Ahead, you’ll learn how to support your little one’s mineral balance — and what to do if it has gone off-balance.
A Healthy Diet Is the Best Defense
The human body is an amazing miracle with internal systems in place to keep everything running smoothly. Case in point: The kidneys naturally regulate fluids and electrolytes for kids.
To get kids their electrolytes, all you usually have to do is make sure your tot meets their daily nutrient requirements. This is usually easily achievable through balanced meals filled with fresh, whole foods. Not to mention making sure they’re regularly drinking water throughout the day. Even plain water has small amounts of electrolytes to refill your kid's mineral levels.
Still, parents of picky eaters know the pains of coaxing young ones to eat their greens. Or pick up their sippy cup. If you’re at your wit’s ends, fret not, as Llama Naturals is here to the rescue.
Our gummy supplements contain 13 natural vitamins from real fruit and vegetables, slow-cooked to retain all their goodness. For example, our all-time favorite multivitamin is made from organic apples and strawberries, which, incidentally, are rich in electrolytes.
What's more, we don't add anything silly, say, synthetic vitamins, sugars, artificial sweeteners, or toxins. Rest assured, your kiddo is getting what they need, straight from nature in a healthy, delicious way. (The grownups can join in, too, with our gummies for adults.)
Skip the Unhealthy Energy Drinks
Ads often tell us that people who do lots of physical activity should regularly down sports drinks to replenish their electrolyte levels (and possibly enhance their athletic performance). After all, 1 liter of sweat can lead to a loss of 0.2-12.5 grams of sodium, on top of other essential minerals like calcium and magnesium.
Sure, a Gatorade drink may give your teenager 36 grams of carbohydrate, 306 milligrams of sodium, and 135 milligrams of potassium. But did you know the same beverage also contains a whopping 36 grams of sugar per serving? That is way more than the recommended sugar intake limit of 25 grams every day for kids.
The bottom line is, the occasional sports drink is all good for quick and easy rehydration. But don’t regularly give it to kids.
Go for Healthier (Yet Tasty) Alternatives
Now, the million-dollar question: Are there healthier alternatives to replenish electrolytes for kids? The answer is yes.
Processed electrolyte drinks are typically filled with additives and artificial sweeteners. But unprocessed ones like coconut water are naturally sweet and have a decent amount of the good stuff (read: electrolytes).
In fact, 1 cup of coconut water (240 grams) can give your child:
- 252 milligrams of sodium
- 600 milligrams of potassium
- 60 milligrams of magnesium
- 57.6 milligrams of calcium
If your kid isn't nuts for coconuts, try giving them 100% pure fruit juice. A single cup of orange juice contains 496 milligrams of potassium alone.
That said, most juices are low-sodium and may not sufficiently rehydrate your child, especially if they are dehydrated from too much sweating. In this case, look toward oral electrolyte solutions specifically designed for the younger crowd.
A good option is Kinderlyte by Kinderfarms to replenish electrolytes for kids after a bout of stomach flu, too much sun exposure, or any other instances. It comes in the form of electrolyte powders and drinks in various kid-friendly flavors to appeal to their taste buds. Using a blend of electrolytes and glucose, the products are free of fruit juices, artificial sweeteners, colors, flavors, or preservatives.
If you can’t find Kinderlyte, other oral rehydration solutions and salts for children will do the trick. You can usually get them over the counter or with a doctor’s prescription.
While there are a great many options on the market, it's always best to consult your primary doctor before starting to give your child rehydration supplements. Once you've got the green light, follow the instructions as prescribed by your doctor or as stated on the product packaging.
Electrolytes for Kids — the Healthy Way
All of us want what's best for our kids, including the right balance of electrolytes. While these essential minerals are easily available through a healthy diet, there are times when kids just have to be kids. Fussy eating, the flu bug, and too much sun from this afternoon's tennis can dehydrate the young ones. Or, they may just tell you, "I feel wonky."
Thankfully, high-quality supplements (cue Llama Naturals) can help your little one get enough essential nutrients. In cases of electrolyte imbalance, try oral rehydration drinks. Just keep in mind that you'll need to sift through options for sugar-reduced, good-for-your-kid choices. But when it comes to your loved ones, you’ll go the distance.
Llama Naturals is a plant-based nutrition brand that has created the World's First Whole Fruit Gummy Vitamins that are made with no added sugar and whole-food vitamins. They are USDA Organic, Vegan, Gluten Free, free of common allergens, and are slow-cooked on low heat to retain rich phytonutrients & fruit flavor. It’s a win-win gummy vitamin that you and the family will love.