Have a Headache? You Might Not Be Drinking Enough Water


Commentary, Ronvel Sharper

More than half of American children aren’t drinking enough water. That’s according to a new study by Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health. Being under-hydrated can cause emotional and physical effects ranging from serious health problems to headaches and irritability. It can also affect your performance in school. The study also found discrepancies by ethnicity and gender; black children are at the highest risk for inadequate hydration, and boys are more at risk than girls.

“The good news is that this is a public health problem with a simple solution,” wrote senior author of the study Steven Gortmaker in a press release. “If we can focus on helping children drink more water—a low-cost, no-calorie beverage—we can improve their hydration status, which may allow many children to feel better throughout the day and do better in school.”

If drinking water is essential to good health and is as easy as turning on the tap at in your kitchen sink, then why aren’t we doing it?

For one, parents and kids don’t know how important drinking water is. Parents don’t talk about how you should drink water on a daily basis or else you can end up feeling under the weather.

And it can be hard to remember to drink water when you are always being exposed to sugary sweets on TV and in stores. There’s always a Sprite or Coca-Cola ad playing on Youtube or television. There’s never an ad for water! When you walk by a Pepsi display in a store window, and walk by all the sodas and juices, you might forget that what you really need is water. That’s how the marketers make customers for life; they outcompete water so they can have more sales for their product.

But these products can make you even more dehydrated, according to Jeff Ritterman, retired cardiologist and former Richmond city council member who tried to pass a tax on sugar-sweetened beverages in Richmond in 2012. “Most soft drinks contain caffeine which is a mild diuretic, which means it makes you pee, leading to water loss.”

Even educated kids make this mistake. I know a bunch of college friends who guzzle energy drinks on a daily basis; they say it keeps them awake and that it’s perfectly harmless. College students have been drinking these sugary drinks so much that they have come to think of it as a substitute for water.

Kids usually wait until they feel thirsty before they drink water. But according to Chris Daniels of LiveStrong.com, that’s too late: “By the time you feel thirsty, you could be headed for dehydration.”

I can tell you from personal experience that this is true. I’ve ended up dehydrated a few times, even though I thought I was drinking enough.  I even went to the hospital once for the headaches.

I used to hate drinking water when I was younger. I used to prefer sugary drinks like sodas and juice. I always preferred some flavor to my drinks, so instead of water, I would drink soda because I thought sodas and juice were basically more flavorful versions of water. Also, they were addictive; I’ve been drinking them my whole life. Soda basically was the only thing that quenched my thirst.

One day, I had a horrible headache. It was so unbearable that my mom rushed me to the hospital. When I got there, my doctor said I was dehydrated and told me to drink more water.

I was skeptical at first, but when I got home and drank a lot more water, I felt a lot better. Actually, I felt completely fine. And, from that moment, I decided to drink more water every day.

Dehydration can make you feel horrible, and you might think it’s something way worse. If you just drink some water, it might be just what you need.

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