My Kid’s Camp Made Her Drink So Much Water that She Got Sick


This comment came in the other day and deserves a closer look. It comes from “Scout Mom,” the mother of two 9-year-olds. And she later found out that at meal time, it was not that each girl had to drink a specific amount, it’s that each table had to collectively drink another two bottles of water.

Completely dytriykksf
off topic vent here.  Well, I guess it’s on the topic of over “protecting” kids.

My 9yo got sent home from sleep-away camp this week.  Why?  Because of water obsession on the part of the staff / volunteers.

It was hot out, so they demanded that the kids drink 8oz of water per hour, plus 2 water bottles full at each meal.  They demanded it so forcefully that my kid was afraid of the consequences should she fail to comply.

She drank and drank until she could drink no more.  With a queasy stomach, she said she didn’t feel well.  They decided she was dehydrated and insisted that she drink more.  This happened every time she reported that she still didn’t feel well.  They called me twice about this Tuesday afternoon.  I suggested they just let her body work things out and check back with me the next day.  They didn’t like this but backed off.

Come evening and I got another call.  The cabin chaperone had dragged my kid back to the nurse’s office because she had wrapped herself in her sleeping bag to avoid being eaten by bugs.  Cabin lady insisted she was too hot to be wrapped in a sleeping bag.  Kid said she was not hot.  They also said she did not eat dinner because her tummy was still upset.  They were still demanding that she drink water continuously.

I asked them to let her sleep and call me the next day.  Cabin lady was floored, saying that if this were her kid, she would be worried about her health and come get her.  They also said they were afraid of needing to take my kid to the hospital for dehydration overnight.  But they backed off and let her stay the night.

8:30 next morning my kid’s stomach was still upset and she was still being made to drink water, so she could not eat much breakfast.  At that point they said she was “shutting down” and I needed to come immediately and take my kid home.  (Actually they said I should take both of my kids home, but I pushed back, since there were no reports of any problems with my other kid.  I guess they thought they’d punish both kids for having such a neglectful mother?)

I took 4 hours off work to go get my kid.  I had to wait for her to return from canoeing (with water in hand!), so apparently she had not in fact “shut down” as they told me.  As we drove away, she said her stomach felt almost normal, and we got some food and she ate it just fine.  She did say she was glad to leave, because all the attention and obsession over her body heat was freaking her out.  But I was not pleased that she missed half a week of activities over someone’s insanity.  Drinking too much water is dangerous too, but I guess nobody ever told these people that.

I asked my kid how the other kids were handling the over-watering problem.  She said they were spilling the water out when the adults weren’t looking.  My kid was afraid to do that lest she get caught and kicked out.  :/

This reminds me of a magazine’s hydration tips I once reprinted here:

1 – Your child should drink 16 ounces of water two hours before a practice or game.

2- Then he should drink another 8 ounces for every 15 minutes he’s participating — even during cooler weather.

3 – It cane be hard to keep the fluid inake up during games, so at halftime your child should drink three full cups of water.

4 – Offer three cups post-game to make up for intake missed during the game.

I get that dehydration is a possibility. But I also think we’ve forgotten that we have a regulating system that works better than any counselor or set of rules. It’s called “thirst.” Especially if water is readily available — and it sure sounds like at the camp it is! — there’s no reason to force kids to guzzle. – L


Kids, you only have to drain one of these after the hike.

Kids, you only have to drain one of these after the hike.


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85 Responses to My Kid’s Camp Made Her Drink So Much Water that She Got Sick

  1. BL July 19, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    “It was hot out, so they demanded that the kids drink 8oz of water per hour, plus 2 water bottles full at each meal.”

    I spent eight hours Saturday at an outdoor festival, 90 degrees F, and sunny.

    I drank a lot of water, but not that much. Maybe four bottles, as much as these kids were forced to drink at mealtimes alone.

  2. Olga July 19, 2016 at 12:10 pm #

    This whole drink x oz of water only became a thing when they started selling bottled water.

  3. LG July 19, 2016 at 12:14 pm #

    When overprotection becomes….akin to child abuse. When summer camp becomes more like a concentration camp…. Well, maybe that’s being a little harsh, but being forced to drink gallons of water each day doesn’t sound healthy for anyone. It’s sad, but I suppose the “classic sleep away camp experience” no longer exists In many places, thanks to our helicopter-groomed society. If a camp can control just about every aspect of a child from the time they wake up in the morning to the time they go to sleep-things so simple and normal that kids can obviously do it for themselves, like going to the bathroom on their own (I saw this in another post about summer camps, when the counselors insist on accompanying the kid to and from the pot) or drinking water from their OWN free will when they actually become thirsty-then really, what’s the point of even sending a kid away to camp at all? That’s sucking the fun straight out of camp and replacing it with constant supervision and dictation. Who would want to go to a camp like that?
    “She said they were spilling the water out when the adults weren’t looking. My kid was afraid to do that lest she get caught and kicked out.”
    Wow…this is just sad. The camps I knew and loved as a child were the ones where time was spent teepeeing cabins and slipping toothpaste into the camp soup when the counselors weren’t looking 😉

  4. Beth July 19, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    I can see why she’d be freaking out over the obsession about her body; yeah, that’s not why we send our kids to camp.

    And this whole “shutting down” thing – what’s the actual definition of that? I’ve heard it used before, and been called to the school once because my son was doing it. As far as I could tell he was fine, and I observed no indication that his body was “shutting down” due to his having a cold.

  5. John C. Randolph July 19, 2016 at 12:21 pm #

    Hey, here’s a wild idea: let kids drink if they’re thirsty, and not drink if they’re not. Surprisingly to the “let’s bubble-wrap all the kids” crowd, the human body has a natural means of indicating whether we need more water or not.


  6. Rebecca July 19, 2016 at 12:22 pm #

    Geez… drink to thirst people. Water toxicity is real, and drinking too much will definitely throw off the pH of your stomach. No wonder she wasn’t feeling well.

  7. Lihtox July 19, 2016 at 12:23 pm #

    In some sense, it’s kind of a shame they didn’t take her to the hospital; a diagnosis of “overhydration” might have shocked some sense into them. (Wouldn’t have been so good for the kid, though.)

  8. Bose July 19, 2016 at 12:31 pm #

    Google “water intoxication.”

    “Drinking too much water can decrease sodium in the blood to dangerously low levels, causing mild to life-threatening problems. […] Confusion, nausea, and vomiting are symptoms. Severe cases can cause seizures, coma, and death.”

    One would think the camp would want to check in with a physician on their all-water-all-the-time policy, eh?

  9. ValerieH July 19, 2016 at 12:34 pm #

    What would they do if someone suffered from water intoxication? Do they monitor mineral levels? Do they provide electrolytes to the kids? How much salt is in the food? Salt is necessary. This is very dangerous behavior on the part of the camp. Drinking a lot of water with meals dilutes HCL in the stomach and interferes with digestion. Nausea is a symptom of over-hydration. That poor girl! Camp is supposed to be fun.
    I am skeptical about the 8 glasses of water a day recommendation. There are thousands of articles on the internet but I rarely see them footnote a study.

  10. Anna July 19, 2016 at 12:39 pm #

    There’s two crazy things here:

    1. The bizarre prevalence of the myth that nearly everybody is “dehydrated” much of the time and needs to drink some specific amount of water per day, regardless of thirst.

    But focusing on that obscures the second, even crazier thing:

    2. Using adult authority to force children to do something as physically invasive as drink a specific amount of water – and such a large amount, for that matter! How is this different than force-feeding someone? Sometimes it’s just crazy, the things we force on kids against their will.

    Providing plenty of water nearby to prevent dehydration I can understand. When I think my son is too hot and needs water, I do make him sit down at the table for a minute or two with a cup of water in front of him, at which point his body generally reminds him he is in fact thirsty – but forcing someone to eat or drink is just plain wrong.

  11. lsl July 19, 2016 at 12:44 pm #

    Last summer when I was camping, I got dehydrated because I drank ONLY water. I drank plenty, & I was fine for the duration, but about a week after I got home, I landed in the hospital with a diagnosis of dehydration because my mineral levels were off. It has taken an entire year to get back to feeling like normal. Now I drink between 1.5-3L of water & .3-.75L of Gatorade every day, depending on activity levels.

  12. Yocheved July 19, 2016 at 12:47 pm #

    It sounds like they need to Google “water intoxication”. She’s lucky her electrolytes didn’t go haywire – it can be fatal, and really FAST. They probably would make her lie down in the nurse’s office, instead of rushing her to the hospital.

    Tell her she’s lucky she got sent home.

  13. Yocheved July 19, 2016 at 12:49 pm #

    When am I going to learn to read all the comments before posting?

    I see that everyone else covered it already. Lenore, can you put the Reply box at the bottom of the comments?

  14. Silver Wolf July 19, 2016 at 1:04 pm #

    Why not just make water available and let the campers drink as they get thirsty?

  15. Mike July 19, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    @Silver Wolf posted:

    >Why not just make water available and let the campers drink as they get thirsty?

    Because that would make too much sense. Worse, it would rely on the campers being in charge of their own thirst, instead of the staff ordering them to comply. We can’t have people acting in their own best interests, when We Your Betters know what you should do!

  16. Dean July 19, 2016 at 1:18 pm #

    Lihtox has the right idea. There are occasional reports of people actually dying from overhydration.
    As a camp leader (private camp, Boy and Girl Scout camps, and week-long backpacking activities), I and my associates urged our kids to have some water before breakfast, adequate water and other liquids such as juices and milk during meals, and as much water during the day as their individual bodies demanded. How many 9-year-olds–or even adults–really need up to a gallon of water per day?
    I agree that some of our schools and apparently some youth camps have become very possessive, over-protective, helicopters or nannies and wonder how we allowed this to happen..

  17. EricS July 19, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    Wow! Just wow! This is a perfect example of over vigilance, coupled with paranoia. And some ignorance and stupidity on the staff’s part. 8oz of water every day is a more of a suggestion than requirement. Doctors have already chimed in on this. They say, “If your thirsty, drink. If your not, don’t.” Keyword thirsty. Most people, including children, will not let themselves dehydrate. But there are those that get distracted and forget to drink water. I sometimes fall prey to this. I’d be working non-stop, next thing I know I’m parched. So I drink until I feel hydrated. But to force kids to keep drinking water when they are being misdiagnosed, is just irresponsible. Haven’t they heard of water intoxication (aka water poisoning)? It’s a real and dangerous thing. Some people are just not as smart as they think they are.

  18. Dave July 19, 2016 at 1:21 pm #

    The back story to the sports part of this is that for a long time, (and some still to this day) coaches thought that depriving players of water made them tougher. I ran into this personally when my 12yo son joined his prep school’s 6-7th grade football team fifteen years ago.

    Kids were constantly bottoming out, and coaches blamed it on a “lack of physical conditioning,” a part of what they thought they were building by withholding water. Fortunately, his mom was the new school nurse and quickly (and rather forcefully) re-educated the entire coaching staff with the school’s on-call doctor backing her up.

    The new rule was to let the boys self-regulate on liquid intake, and it was thoroughly explained to both coaches and players. They also began offering Gatorade as well as water to deal with electrolyte and potassium losses. The coaches were skeptical at first (to put it mildly) but quickly came over as the boys’ performance increased dramatically. Now, they’d never consider withholding water.

    That said, “prescriptive” water intake such as this Girl Scout camp pushed, is just as wrong. Water poisoning is a real thing, and can kill. That’s why the nurse made it clear that self-regulation was so important.

  19. Anna July 19, 2016 at 1:33 pm #

    “I am skeptical about the 8 glasses of water a day recommendation. There are thousands of articles on the internet but I rarely see them footnote a study.”

    Actually, it’s been pretty well proven – as far as a negative can be proven – that there never was any science behind it. Research I’ve seen indicates that, best we can tell, “8 glasses a day” got its start as a throwaway remark (w/out any accompanying citation) in a government nutrition pamphlet in the 50’s, since which time it’s taken on a life of its own simply by endless repetition. Ironically, the original remark in that pamphlet was not a recommendation to drink that much, but a factual claim that humans do in fact take in about that much water daily, including the water contained in food.

    Anything I’ve ever seen on the topic by actual experts in the field, such as urologists, says simply to drink when you’re thirsty.

  20. Dee July 19, 2016 at 1:36 pm #

    Yup, our focus on drinking water has gotten out of hand. Water is great and consuming liquids is necessary but not to the levels that we’re led to believe. My son – who has always been a low-level liquid consumer – would’ve had a problem at that camp. I typically would send him to daycamp w/ a bottle of water and fully half of it would come home. Occasionally, if he was really hot, he’d drink all of it.

    A friend collapsed during a half marathon because – you guessed it – she consumed TOO much water, thinking she was doing the right thing for her body.

    Think about decades and centuries ago before we got so into the 8+ glasses, 64+ fl oz water consumption goals. People didn’t drink that much water and while they died sooner, I don’t think it was the water consumption that killed them! And look at dogs. Some drink a lot, but may others (my own) does not. It’s a very personal thing and generally your body will tell you when to and when not to drink.

  21. Alanna July 19, 2016 at 1:38 pm #

    It is possible to overdose on water. I think many people don’t know that.

  22. Rachael July 19, 2016 at 1:42 pm #

    My husband was at a scout day camp a couple weeks ago. It was hot so he made sure the boys each had a water bottle and encouraged them to drink. About half way through the day one of the boys (whom he knew was not drinking enough) began to get crabby and wasn’t having much fun. My husband set him down and made him drink half his bottle. He felt so much better. And he and the other boys were able to make a connection between hydration and attitude.
    We need to let the kids learn for themselves. He was no where in the danger zone for dehydration and now he will be able to make better choices in the future.
    If my husband had forced the boys to drink a certain amount it would have been a completely different experience.

  23. Jess July 19, 2016 at 1:50 pm #

    I’m just going to do some math really quickly:
    8oz per hour x 16 hour day = 128oz or 1 gallon. If we assume each water bottle is 16oz, that’s another 96oz making a total of 224oz, which is nearly two gallons in one day. Guidelines for emergent preparedness recommend one gallon per person per day, where half a gallon is for drinking and the other half for hygiene.

    A couple of summers ago, my 4yo son was downing more than 100oz per day and we were so concerned that we had him tested for diabetes. He was fine, but that much water in one day was concerning. Nearly two gallons could kill someone, especially a child.

  24. lollipoplover July 19, 2016 at 1:58 pm #

    “Drinking too much water can decrease sodium in the blood to dangerously low levels, causing mild to life-threatening problems. […] Confusion, nausea, and vomiting are symptoms. Severe cases can cause seizures, coma, and death.”

    This happened to my daughter’s friend at a sleepaway field hockey camp. She over-hydrated on just water and was admitted to the ICU unresponsive (she’s fine now). Pretty sure she did this to herself without dangerous rules like this camp seems to have. To force water on someone is very irresponsible and dangerous.

    Why just water to hydrate? During heat waves and high humidity days, I’m a big fan of watermelon or other fruits, in addition to water as needed. We just spent 4 days straight in the sun being active and drank just a few bottles of water daily. They also ate lots of fruit (and a few fluffernutters) and not a one was dehydrated. They slept like babies.

    It’s like kids can never get thirsty or hungry and obey their own body cues- everything is directed by the adults at their timed intervals to fill in the boxes on their checklists. How sad and cruel.

  25. Monica July 19, 2016 at 2:01 pm #

    This fear of dehydration seems to be a prevalent theme in the Scouting organization. A few years ago, when my son was 6, we signed him up for scouts. That summer my husband and I volunteered at a week-long day camp. We had a very similar experience there.

    From the moment camp started on Monday morning, the main leaders talked incessantly about keeping kids hydrated. There were two main rules–the campers could never be out of sight from an adult, and they must have a be taking drinks from their water bottles nearly continuously. I cannot emphasize enough how much drinking water overshadowed the entire experience.

    At lunch the first day, the top leader decided that the boys weren’t drinking enough water, so we weren’t allowed to leave our tables until she or one of her trusted assistants had personally given each group a hysteria-based warning about how they could all suffer kidney failure if they didn’t suck on a water bottle at all times. The next day was even worse. It started with a new program in which each boy would get a bead every time he finished a bottle of water. (The beads were to be collected and put on a safety pin that could be worn as a badge!) the goal was that each boy would collect 10 beads in the 6 hours of camp each day.

    By noon it was apparent that the water goals were not being met, so we were instructed to give they boys a bead every time they took a drink of water. (I swear I am not making this up.) the leader of our small group offered small flavoring packets to add to the water bottles. Another parent volunteer read the ingredients and had a major fit because the packets contained aspartame and caffeine. I suggested that the caffeine’s diuretic effect would make the boys pee out the water, allowing them to drink more water and earn more beads. Apparently, parent volunteers are not allowed to joke about such serious issues (the leader did not feel it appropriate to joke about DEHYDRATION and the other parent was appalled that I would joke about poisoning children with artificial sweetener and caffeine).

    My son, at age 6, already knew his mind and refused to tolerate absurdity. He hated the whole experience–the other aspects of the “camp” we’re as micromanaged and ridiculous as the water issue–so at his insistence and our relief, we left at noon on Tuesday and quit Scouts altogether.

    The only thing good toncome from that camp is our family joke. often when one of us take a drink of water from a bottle, my husband will say, “be sure to get your bead!” Ah, the fond memories of Scout camp.

  26. Theresa July 19, 2016 at 2:02 pm #

    Every summer they remind you to make sure you drink up. But they should say not too much water so the worrywarts don’t go overboard. Which they will give half a chance.

  27. Ron Skurat July 19, 2016 at 2:03 pm #

    Clearly there’s not a single person at this camp with any medical training at all. Incompetence that would be laughable if it weren’t so abusive. The OP/LW sould find another camp.

  28. J Moseley July 19, 2016 at 2:08 pm #

    Now this IS crazy! Too much water can and does kill people. It flushes out the sodium and potassium in all of the excess urine, causing heart rhythm irregularities, and leads to grand mal seizures. It happened to me. After 8 days in ICU I woke up. Thankfully, I recovered.

  29. TheOtherAnna July 19, 2016 at 2:09 pm #

    Idiots. You can actually die from this.

  30. James Pollock July 19, 2016 at 2:25 pm #

    I very carefully planned my enlistment so that I could go away to basic training, in Texas, in July and August (I then went off to tech school, in Denver, through the winter.)

    At every meal, you get your plate of food, and 2 glasses of water. You can’t touch the food until you drink both glasses of water. You can tell the difference between the new arrivals and the guys who’ve been there a few weeks, because you quickly learn to pound both glasses of water in about 5 seconds. We still had guys affected by heat exhaustion (mostly during PT, which we did before dawn because then it’s only about 80 degrees with 95% humidity, and during the day it gets up to the upper nineties. When the humidity is that high, you can’t sweat away heat. So we had classroom training in the afternoon, most days.

    That was the only time I’ve ever experienced mandatory water consumption, and, in that case, we actually needed it. YMMV.

  31. Walter Underwood July 19, 2016 at 2:32 pm #

    That is very dangerous. This condition is called hyponatremia and it can be fatal.

    Report this to the organization that runs the camp. They are putting the participants at risk by pushing water on them without asking them about their condition.

    What was the camp?

  32. Kacey July 19, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    After high profile heat stress incidents with football players, the state athletic association in Florida started requiring water breaks in all sports, at least outdoor sports. So, in winter, when most schools play soccer, my players had to stop in the middle of each half for a water break… never mind that the temperature northern Florida is often below 50, even 40 degrees, during these winter night games. Common sense: not allowed.

  33. Vaughan Evans July 19, 2016 at 2:51 pm #

    I used to be a member of the YMCA-in Downtown Vancouver (Canada)

    Handball is a popular game there.

    There are sports drinks that they sell-GatorAid_and other sports drinks-are designed to replenish the sodium and potassium ions-that people lose when they sweat
    (Handball is a very vigorous game)

    -The problem with water -is that it replenishes ONLY water.

    People who work where it is very hot are often given a salt tablet.(Glass factories get very hot)

    NOTE: It is NOT good to take a salt tablet-when drinking water is in short supply-the kidneys cannot handle too much of a concentration of salt.

  34. Erika July 19, 2016 at 2:53 pm #

    I’m pretty sure when I went to camp way back in the early 80s, the only water I consumed was out of my canteen while hiking.There was milk at breakfast and Kool-Aid at lunch. I find if bizarre that my own kids constantly complain of thirst when we are out and about. I can guarantee my parents never bought me a drink while running errands — drink when you get home.

  35. Vaughan Evans July 19, 2016 at 2:57 pm #

    People have gone to extreme behavior.
    They say that salt is bad for you, sugar is bad for you.
    Most people get their necessary iodine by consuming iodized salt(which is a mixture of potassium iodide an sodium chloride>0
    -Even diabetics are required to carry something in the form of pure sugar(such as a Life saver)In case they have an insulin reaction.
    (One swimming pool can supplies of glucagon.(The blood sugar of diabetics often gets low when a person is expending much energy or if(for whatever reason-there is not enough food for the insulin to catabolize)
    Most professional sports team have a full time physician. I have been told of one diabetic who plays professional football.
    He is required by his physician and coach-to drink a specified amount of “pop”-to prevent him from having an insulin reaction during a game.

  36. Jesse July 19, 2016 at 3:03 pm #

    I worked at a summer camp, and we never forced kids to drink that much water!

    What we did:
    * Staff filled all cups with water before the meal, and refilled the water pitcher so it was full.
    * Cups were 12-16oz in size.
    * Campers had to drink the cup of water before getting juice.

    Other than those rules, we encouraged kids to have a water bottle on them, and drink from it as needed. As a staffer, if we were doing some thing strenuous, I’d say “We’re going to be running around right now; make sure you get a drink of water before heading out.” When we got back, I’d encourage them to drink again. I never watched to make sure; I had too many campers and I was often transitioning into the next activity.

    These kids were walking about 30 miles in a five day period (Monday-Friday), so around 6 miles a day. We needed to make sure they were hydrated hence the water before juice rules. Otherwise it was up to them.

  37. Vicki Bradley July 19, 2016 at 3:03 pm #

    I love the photo and caption that goes with this story – very funny!

    My main take-away message from all the stories, including this one, that I read on FRK is the extent to which adults are infantilizing children and ruining so many aspects of their childhood because of their own fears, paranoia, and complete lack of common sense. I am forever grateful that this website exists, as well as other like-minded people, otherwise I would think I’m the only who thinks/feels this way, which could lead me to lose my mind!

  38. shdd July 19, 2016 at 3:38 pm #

    I sent my daughter to an amusement park with one 16 ounce frozen water bottle, some money, and a bus snack. Her camp encourages them after finishing lunch to ask the drink places to give them a free cup of water instead of spending their money. The camp counselors carry around sun tan lotion it is 95 degrees today but no water.

    The only injury my daughter received was last year inside she managed to get her knees on her lip at a Sky Zone and her lip was bloody. They called to say she has an ice pack on her lip. I think we did one more ice pack before bed and she was fine. She was inside at the time.

  39. hineata July 19, 2016 at 3:52 pm #

    I remember being made to down a teaspoon of salt an afternoon at a Girl Guide Jamboree back in the late 70s. That was after a few girls collapsed following 3 hours sitting in the direct sun in (for us) an unusually hot summer. That was pretty stupid of the leadership, but I suppose with 5000 girls present, they wanted to get all the ceremonial stuff out of the way in one fell swoop. I mainly remember the salt because it was one of the few times my friends and I stood up to adults. ….we were all back in our little units by then (the BIG leaders, who by then had registered the ambulances arriving, having dispersed us all) and the ladies were trying to get us to drink salted ‘Koolaid’ . Never again. We all grabbed teaspoons to show we were capable of licking salt straight, with water following, thank you just the same ☺.

    Thanks for the memories, Girl Guides. And if the camp is that worried about dehydration, the kids should be taking salt as well. I actually did send my kids to school with a small container of salt during really hot spells, and they came home without the complaints their friends were making of headaches, so it does seem to work.

  40. Tim July 19, 2016 at 4:07 pm #

    @Beth, Who knows what they meant by “shutting down?” Dying? It’s a dumb thing to say because it means whatever anyone wants it to. And they aren’t qualified to use the term in any official way.

  41. NY Mom July 19, 2016 at 4:27 pm #

    I thought everyone knew the water-salt-heat-exercise connection. But a City Recreation leader in my city died several years ago from dehydration. He collapsed during a marathon, was taken to the hospital and treated for heart. His temperature was through the roof but the medics didn’t think to cool him down. Saline solution and a cool water bath may have saved his life. He left a young wife and two little kids.

    As climate changes, we shall experience more extremes of heat. We must educate kids and parents and camp leaders and sports coaches to use facts, not opinions,
    when designing health programs.
    I was a Cub Scout Den Leader and summer Scout Camp volunteer. On hot days the boys went shirtless and poured water over their heads and torsos. I was in uniform and green with envy. There were water pumps to drink from. No one obsessed about water.

    “All day I faced a barren waste without a taste of water.. Cool water.”

  42. angeleyes1307 July 19, 2016 at 4:30 pm #

    In response to everybody who is all about leaving the kids be and let thirst be a guide – that isn’t the best idea, especially with kids. I just finished a day camp with cub scouts. We had a good number of boys end up in a serious condition (disoriented and passing out) from dehydration. Kids often don’t drink a lot of water, they drink juices and stuff – which is fine, especially if they aren’t outside much-, so they don’t like the water, so they choose to ignore the thirst rather than drink water (that is often hard to keep cold); and at camp a lot of the kids may or not be used to being outside so they are also trying to acclimatize to being outside all day as well. They also don’t want to have to stop what they are doing just to drink; you have to make everybody stop and drink. They also may not be comfortable with the bathroom facilities and try to avoid how often they have to go. I work in a health clinic and we have adults come in all summer long to be treated for heat injury (and as a lab tech, I assure you, their blood and urine says that most of them are really hurting – not just over diagnosed).
    That being said, what this camp was doing, is drastically and dangerously overkill. The medic here missed the boat with the diagnosis/treatment as well. The “checking out” was a combination of over-hydrated and self conscious, which was made worse, not better, by the way the staff handled it.
    And from the camp staff perspective, they are trying desperately to avoid having to explain to an outraged parent- “how could their kid get a heat injury?!?! Weren’t you taking care of her (/him)?!?!” It requires skill and training to maintain a healthy balance.

  43. Beanie July 19, 2016 at 4:34 pm #

    Our Cub Scout camp experience this year was good on the water front. There were WAY too many adults wandering around, but no one was forced to drink water. They kept water plentiful and when outside, we often reminded the boys to take a drink, but it was pretty low key. I only “lost” one boy due to dehydration–he wouldn’t drink his water, and had to spend the last couple hours of the first day lying down and didn’t come back the next day. You know what his mom said? “He won’t drink. Maybe he’ll learn from this.” I sure hope so–he missed out on bb shooting, rockets, and an awesome kickball game with baby pools as bases and a slip and slide to home plate. Oh yeah, and earning a pocketknife.

  44. Anna July 19, 2016 at 5:29 pm #

    “Kids often don’t drink a lot of water, they drink juices and stuff – which is fine, especially if they aren’t outside much-, so they don’t like the water, so they choose to ignore the thirst rather than drink water (that is often hard to keep cold); and at camp a lot of the kids may or not be used to being outside so they are also trying to acclimatize to being outside all day as well. They also don’t want to have to stop what they are doing just to drink; you have to make everybody stop and drink. They also may not be comfortable with the bathroom facilities and try to avoid how often they have to go.”

    Uh huh – you know, what’s really amazing, amid such universal dangers, is that the the human race (including its dumb young) has survived this long.

  45. Warren July 19, 2016 at 6:51 pm #

    Hate to burst your bubbles but waiting until you are thirsty is actually waiting too long. The sensation of thirst is your body’s signal that you are in need of water. This means you are already lacking. Then people tend to try and replenish too quickly and do not retain the amount of fluids they take in.

    You need to be constantly taking in fluids / water. Small amounts continually is best. Even more so on hot days and or during activities. Cold water is great for quenching thirst but your body does not absorb it as well as water not chilled.

  46. tdr July 19, 2016 at 6:53 pm #

    I hope they refunded your money for the rest of the week! (my guess is they did not)

    I’m wondering if you complained to the director or did anything like that? I wonder if anyone sensible was made aware of this weird behavior on the part of the counselors? Just curious. It sounds wacky. Good for the kids who dumped the water!

  47. Anna July 19, 2016 at 7:00 pm #

    “Hate to burst your bubbles but waiting until you are thirsty is actually waiting too long. The sensation of thirst is your body’s signal that you are in need of water.”

    Yes, this is the message of countless feature articles in women’s magazines. However, I’ve never seen any reputable scientific authority confirming this, and many denying it. I never thought I’d say this Warren, but maybe you need to lay off “Cosmo” and “Marie Claire.”

    Or tell us, what exactly is it that will happen to a person who waits (horrors!) until feeling thirst to have a drink?

  48. Rebecca July 19, 2016 at 7:03 pm #

    I am a Scout leader, and literally just sat down after a 90 degree day in the sun. Ensuring kids drink to stay hydrated is one thing, forcing water on them is another. Scout “rules” can be a bit over the top at times, but rest assured that the vast majority of scout leaders are using their COMMON SENSE when it comes to the kids.

  49. Warren July 19, 2016 at 8:06 pm #


    Sorry to burst your bubble but my information comes from one of the baddest dudes on the planet. He has not only wrote the book on survival but teaches it to the SAS.
    I will follow John Hudson’s instructions before yours or anyone’s smart ass. Nice try but you fail.

  50. Theresa July 19, 2016 at 8:06 pm #

    If they made my kid sick like that I would have yelled at so hard that they would been begging for Mercy. My mom says that you do for your kids when dealing with idiots who think they know it all.

  51. Anna July 19, 2016 at 8:12 pm #

    “I will follow John Hudson’s instructions before yours or anyone’s smart ass. Nice try but you fail.”

    Sorry, but I missed you being specific about what harm happens when a person waits to drink water until feeling thirsty? Could you please be a little more specific? (The appeal to irrelevant authorities does not count as being specific. . .)

  52. elizabeth July 19, 2016 at 8:20 pm #

    you should have reported them.

  53. Steve July 19, 2016 at 8:22 pm #

    As to how much water one should drink.

  54. James Pollock July 19, 2016 at 8:29 pm #

    “Or tell us, what exactly is it that will happen to a person who waits (horrors!) until feeling thirst to have a drink?”

    They’ll have a MUCH lower bar tab.

  55. Margot July 19, 2016 at 8:33 pm #

    I can’t remember anyone ever taking bottled water with them anywhere apart from on a hike when I was a kid. Now they’re like an Amex card – you can’t leave home without one apparently. I blame Elle McPherson. Ever since she famously proclaimed that she drinks eight glasses of water a day, we were all hooked on the myth that this is what it takes to be a picture of radiant health and well being.
    Serously though, I think Australians are a bit more on top of the danger of water toxicity since the well-known case of Anna Wood, a young girl who died in 1995 from water toxicity after taking ecstasy at a rave party. Initially it was thought that contaminated ecstasy was the cause of her death; later water toxicity was revealed as the cause. She is the subject of a Wikipedia entry.

  56. Travis July 19, 2016 at 9:12 pm #

    @Warren “Hate to burst your bubbles but waiting until you are thirsty is actually waiting too long.”

    It is still not worse than forcing anyone to drink a gallon of water a day, specially children. If they drink when they are thirsty, and then drink water or something else at lunch and dinner, then they should be just fine. That’s how most people mage to live, and doing this for a couple of weeks is not overly dangerous. Forcing a gallon of water down a child’s throat everyday is.

  57. Travis July 19, 2016 at 10:03 pm #

    Aaand, that should be *manage

  58. Warren July 19, 2016 at 10:26 pm #


    Waiting until thirsty means you are trying to replenish instead of maintaining. Problem one.
    Most people when they reach the point of thirst go for cold drinks including cold water for the sensation of quenching but unfortunately your body does not absorb cold water effectively and a percentage of it goes straight out through urine. Problem two.
    Drinking to replenish usually has people drinking water too quickly. Faster than the body can absorb it with a percentage lost again to urine. Problem three.
    So you have people taking in x amount but not absorbing near what they believe.

    Irrelevant authority? That’s not only hilarious but insulting. When it comes to survival which hydration and dehydration are major factors, John Hudson is the authority. Before you look stupid again you may want to research him just a little.

  59. Warren July 19, 2016 at 10:30 pm #

    Where did I support what this camp did? I didn’t.
    But your logic is ignore the proper way to avoid dehydration in favor of a less wrong way than the camp. Are you related to Trump?

  60. Dawn July 19, 2016 at 11:42 pm #

    My youngest (age eight) does need reminders to drink enough and has gotten headaches, so I can understand encouraging the kids to drink during the day and possibly requiring very reluctant water drinkers to finish some minimum amount before they go to their next activity. But that requires common sense and good judgment, not crazy strict water rules, much less rules based on misinformation about how much water is needed.

    And, if they’re going to be paranoid about dehydration, shouldn’t they know the actual signs of dehydration? Based on the mother’s report, they didn’t describe any signs of dehydration in the child. I haven’t heard of stomachaches as a symptom of dehydration, but they are a common symptom of drinking too much water and of being in a stressful environment. I’d love to know if “shutting down” meant she was trying to shut out the crazy people around her.

  61. Travis July 19, 2016 at 11:44 pm #

    Warren, I didn’t insult you, no need to call anyone a Trump.

    And of course children should have proper hydration, but in the light of the method of the camp, the way I described is still better. The camp should, of course, encourage the kids drink enough water, but from the way you said “sorry to burst your bubbles” when people said kids could manage not to die from dehydration, it did sound, to an extent, that you would prefer to overhydrate the kids rather than them drinking when they were thirsty.

  62. sexhysteria July 20, 2016 at 12:11 am #

    When you’re perspiring a lot you should NOT drink a lot of plain water. You need to replace the mineral salts that are lost in sweat, so natural fruit or vegetable juice with low-sodium “salt” added is better. If hysterical adults forced a child to drink a lot of plain water they may have caused the symptoms – not because of the quantity but the kind of fluid they forced on the child.

  63. Kimberly July 20, 2016 at 1:26 am #

    The kids who were pouring out the water were doing the right thing. Drinking to much water can lower your sodium levels leading to water intoxication. I’m from Texas and have always been told that you should drink water when thirsty. There is a point when it is over 100 that it is recommended that if you HAVE to be out in the heat to drink water ahead of time. Usually the city or county has called a heat emergency and it is strongly recommended that outside activities be curtailed – even swimming isn’t pleasant unless you are in a river with cold springs because most sources of water are going to approach bathtub temps. It doesn’t sound like these kids were in those types of temperatures.

    The levels of water consumption being described sound like guidelines for August football practice in full gear not kids at a camp. Except that it wouldn’t be water but sports drinks to avoid drops in sodium levels. They also take breaks during the heat of day. Where I am they often practice 7 am – 10 or 11 am, and then evening practice 6 pm – 9 pm.

  64. heiko July 20, 2016 at 4:40 am #

    My late father (M.D.) told me this story when I was small:
    A woman in France killed herself by drinking 7 liters of water.
    I guess Kidneys shut down

    Should we now label all water bottles with a warning, I think so … make the world a better place, safer and better, warn people of this hidden danger :-0)

  65. Jessica July 20, 2016 at 8:01 am #

    Thanks for your input. I am sure that most of the scout leaders have common sense.

    A theme of this site, like so many parenting sites, is “here’s a story about a thing that happened once”, which is followed by a string of comments leaping to the conclusion that all of category X are terrible. All Scout leaders, all teachers, all policemen, all social workers….

  66. Sylv July 20, 2016 at 8:07 am #

    Today’s xkcd comic seems on point:

  67. Edward Hafner July 20, 2016 at 9:09 am #

    Always seemed like xkcd was Free Range – in thought more than physical being.

    Used to work in construction on houses and buildings with no a/c installed yet in the summer.
    Never consumed a drop of liquid for 8 hours at a time.
    I’m still alive to tell about it.

    Always think it’s silly when I see people dragging water bottles with them everywhere all the time.
    If you really need to depend on that, perhaps there is more wrong with you than just thirst.

  68. Warren July 20, 2016 at 10:33 am #

    And humans lived in caves at one point. Your working in summer heat without consuming fluids for the entire work day is either a lie or just plain stupid.
    If I caught any of my guys trying a stunt like that they would be sent home. Their company truck would not be going with them. In many occupations heat related illnesses can also be the cause of other accidents and injuries.

  69. Beth2 July 20, 2016 at 11:22 am #

    “And she later found out that at meal time, it was not that each girl had to drink a specific amount, it’s that each table had to collectively drink another two bottles of water.”

    It’s sounding less and less like a health and safety policy, and more and more like a weird hazing ritual for sorority or fraternity pledges.

  70. Adam July 20, 2016 at 12:05 pm #

    This might have been a case where “drop everything and run to my child” was the appropriate action. Killing a child with water intoxication is a very real risk. A number of years ago, a coworker and his wife killed their young daughter by water intoxication, and the mother was convicted and served six years in prison.

  71. Edward Hafner July 20, 2016 at 4:54 pm #

    Not a lie. When I was a young teenager I would go on early Sunday morning bike rides for four to five hours to avoid traffic. Not the heat of the day but continuous physical exertion. Never took a water bottle as my bike did not have the holder and didn’t buy anything because I never took money with me, it being Sunday morning and no stores were open yet. I suppose I unknowingly trained my body not to rely on a continuous minimum amount of water to function.
    Today on the other hand, kids are forced to drink when they shouldn’t and so we then have adults walking around dropping empty drink containers anywhere and everywhere.
    I believe this topic is trying to make it plain that if your body knows it’s limits, it is wrong for you to impose yours.

  72. Dasy2k1 July 20, 2016 at 5:49 pm #

    As a scout leader myself the attitude of this camp is ridiculous… In hot weather I do insist that all kids carry a water bottle around with them and ensure they refill it as often as necessary. Kids having fun do often forget to drink, but putting actual quantities on how much thy should drink is ridiculous especially when the quantities are that excessive!

    Excessive drinking can be just as dangerous as not drinking enough! Forcing somone to drink to the extent that their cells swell up and begin to bust has actually been used as a torture method!
    Not to mention that well before you get to that stage you will have thrown the body’s electrolyte ballance out….

    If a child complains of a headache or stomach ache in hot weather I will ask how much they have had to drink and give them a glass of water if that (as it often does) turns out to not be very much….

    If the answer is that they have been guzzling water all day in vast quantities I would be advising them to cut back on the amount (little and often rather than large quantities) and checking that they had actually been to the toilet (not unheard of for kids away from home to try and hold it in as they are scared to use the camp toilets)

  73. Warren July 20, 2016 at 8:24 pm #

    Sorry but then you are an idiot. When it comes to something as simple as hydration why would you push to the limit? That’s just stupid.
    Like I said the guys that work for me ever pulled bone head moves like that and they are going home without pay. Do it repeatedly and your ass is fired.
    You are not as effective or safe doing that, so you’re outta here.

    Once I started following john Hudson’s advice my productivity and health during high activity and or heat has greatly improved.

  74. andy July 21, 2016 at 2:30 am #

    @Anna I can confirm that small kids often choose not to drink and ignore thirst. Then they feel bad and act out and still wont drink without being told to. Or they get tired and can not walk no more or are not concentrated, but wont think of drinking. So, I learned to tell them to go to drink before that happens and all is fine. Older kids that listened to coaches who would deny them drinking to “toughen up” or “discipline” or “strong will”, we had these as kids too, may not drink even when very thirsty to not appear wimpy.

    This camp is forcing too much water on kids and unnecessary forcefully, but that does not mean the mere act of reminding kids to drink is something evil. When you are a parent, you know whether your kid need reminder or not. When you are running camp, you have no idea because you do not know those kids and some of them is likely to be like that.

    Yes, human race survived for long.And pretty much all the time adults were telling kids all kinds of things – including how much and when to eat. In some periods adults were forcing too much food on kids, in others too little, but pretty much rarely could kids eat and drink as much as they wanted with no adult regulation – even at the time when kids had to work they had to wait for break in work or just observed adults and drunk at the same times.

  75. Tim July 21, 2016 at 5:27 am #

    Damm they succeed in ruining all the fun. There is nothing comparable as to be really thirsty and to hold your head under a tap and drink till your stomach hurts from all the cold water.

  76. Edward Hafner July 21, 2016 at 2:20 pm #

    You’re not paying attention or thinking.

  77. Warren July 21, 2016 at 2:55 pm #

    Oh yes I am. You are just too thick to understand the importance of maintaining hydration over depletion then replenish.
    Humans are not camels. We are not effective at storing water.
    Now go learn things.

  78. Another Katie July 21, 2016 at 4:05 pm #

    Our older daughter – almost 6 – forgot to bring her water bottle to Girl Scout day camp on what was one of the hottest days of the summer so far. The only outcome was a note home asking us to please remember the water bottle because of the importance of hydration in that kind of heat. The camp only has potable water in certain locations so she had to go back and forth a few hundred feet from her unit to the main cabin with a buddy every time she needed a drink, so she had not really drunk QUITE enough that day – but there was no harm done, she was just thirsty when she got off the bus. You’d better believe that she remembered to check her own backpack for her water bottle every morning for the rest of the session!

    Not being thirsty despite hot conditions can be a sign of heat stroke – which is a life threatening condition that has other very apparent symptoms. A child who is able to run and play and have fun and is eating some food is not suffering from heat stroke. A 9 year old drinking some fluids is NOT going to have heat stroke and still be able to function normally at camp.

    It is important for kids to remember to drink, and an unsettled stomach can be a first sign of dehydration for a kid out in the heat – but it wasn’t like this 9 year old wasn’t drinking ANYTHING, she just wasn’t guzzling the quantities that they expected her to. For a child without special medical needs or developmental delays, at some point you need to trust them to handle their own hydration needs. For a young child like our 3 year old, I will remind her to take a drink often – but I let her decide how much water will suit her.

    I’d be pissed if I had to pick my kid up an expensive resident camp all because they thought that hydration is a one-size-fits-all scenario.

  79. CrazyCatLady July 22, 2016 at 12:28 am #

    Adam said “This might have been a case where “drop everything and run to my child” was the appropriate action. Killing a child with water intoxication is a very real risk. A number of years ago, a coworker and his wife killed their young daughter by water intoxication, and the mother was convicted and served six years in prison.”

    Dear God, I hope that the mother served this time knowing when she forced her daughter to drink that much that it was putting her daughter at risk. When I was young, early 20s, this was not something that I would have been aware of. It wasn’t until a DJ had a contest drinking water and a contestant died that I became aware of this issue. (As the DJ was also unaware.) And, as these presumably young counselors were unaware….having my child die due to something that I did not know about would certainly be punishment enough.

  80. Edward Hafner July 22, 2016 at 9:25 am #

    Last time, Warren.
    And yet, I’m still alive having suffered no ill effects all these decades from the way I live my life.
    I’m moving on now.
    You may, of course, continue making your noise.

  81. Papilio July 22, 2016 at 12:52 pm #

    In 2005 a student hazing here went wrong because this 18-year-old was forced to drink 6 liters of water in ‘a short amount of time’, so his kidneys shut down and he spent a day and a half in coma. Did survive though.

  82. Warren July 22, 2016 at 10:39 pm #


    How do you know you haven’t done damage? Seems that your mental faculties have suffered or maybe you have always been this ignorant.

    Tell you what…take a challenge.
    Both take baseline vitals, heart rate, blood pressure, and core temperature. You work your way for your typical 8 hours with no fluids and I’ll do my typical 12 summer day with water. To make it interesting we can do it on a day over 35 Celsius. Then we’ll measure the vitals at the end of the day.

    Can guarantee you who will be in better condition. And before you assume my job is a breeze or indoors it is not. As a matter of fact their is a very good possibility you are in the majority of people that couldn’t handle what me and my guys do, day in day out. No such thing as too hot or too cold for us.

  83. zzmel July 24, 2016 at 2:06 am #

    Of course water is important, especially on hot days. Overdoing it is asking for trouble. Your body only can take so much water. Salt is an important mineral to balance the electrolytes in the body. Drinking too much water is deluding the salt content causing chemical imbalance which you need in order for your body to function. Another fact to consider is in excess, you can drown in your own fluids. Where is the water to go including your lungs? Something to consider. Who makes the rules at a camp whether you have to drink so much water. I would think that a nursing staff would know how much water to drink.

  84. Marcus July 27, 2016 at 3:53 am #

    the only other time I’ve heard of forced hydration like this was back when i was in the marines (about 20yrs ago). in basic they had us down a full canteen every hour or so. i always guessed that it was mainly for folks from a cooler climate, however since i was from alabama and used to weather straight out the devils a-hole all it was for me was very annoying to me and meant i almost constantly had to pee till the DI’s dialed back a bit. PS im typeing on a smartphone so no one be a grammer nazi please.

  85. jt July 27, 2016 at 2:18 pm #

    I know someone who went to the hospital due to “water poisoning” – he drank so much plain water in a hot, stressful situation that his electrolyte balance was upset.

    I know many people who have gotten ill from dehydration.

    Hydrating right is a serious issue. Educating and empowering kids also important

    Camp in warm conditions should encourage kids to drink, make drinks readily available, and check on kids who seems to be in distress. If they cannot tell the difference between overhydration and dehydration, they should find someone who can to be on staff.

    AND (and this is important) they should be empowering kids to know how to watch out for themselves. Have the kids look at the color of their pee (it should generally be light-colored and if it suddenly gets dark that is trouble). Or understand what thirst is and respond to that – don’t ignore it. Know that staying hydrated is important – just as eating is important. But not having silly rules that make kids ill.

    The girl in the story seemed to have decent body awareness, which should be applauded, not ignored.