Why is it important for people with Down syndrome to drink water?

Many people with Down syndrome have chronic constipation (trouble having a bowel movement). When something is chronic, it means it has gone on or can go on for a long time. Not drinking enough water can cause constipation in people with and without Down syndrome. While medicines may occasionally be needed to treat constipation, many people with Down syndrome can avoid medicines if they drink enough water throughout the day, eat enough fiber each day and stay physically active.

How much water should a person drink every day?

The amount of water a person needs increases (gets larger) as they get older. When a person drinks enough water, they are well hydrated. If you/your child are physically active, have a fever or are experiencing vomiting and/or diarrhea, you/they need to drink more water on those days.

The chart below shows how much water a person needs depending on their age.

A chart showing how much water a person needs based on their age

What are some tips to help me/my child drink more water?

  • Make water more appealing to drink in fun ways such as:
    • Add fruits and/or veggies to water, such as lemons, berries, cucumbers or mint
    • Carry water in a fun water bottle or in sippy cups
    • Make fruit smoothies with water
  • Eat fruits and veggies that naturally have lots of water in them. This includes fruits like watermelon, blueberries, pineapples, strawberries, apples, peaches, oranges or grapefruit. If you/your child like vegetables, try cucumber, celery, lettuce, zucchini, bell peppers or cabbage.
  • Avoid drinks with added sugar, such as juice, flavored milk, soda and liquids with artificial sweeteners.

What are the signs of dehydration by age group?

0-6 months

  • Fewer wet diapers than usual (most babies have 6-8 wet diapers per day)
  • Overly sleepy
  • Sunken fontanelle (the soft spot on top of a baby’s head)
  • No tears when crying


  • Dry lips, sticky mouth
  • Less frequent urinating / dark-colored urine (urine should typically be light yellow or almost clear)
  • Sleepiness and irritability
  • Flushed skin

Teens and adults

  • Dry lips or mouth
  • Feeling light-headed
  • Cramps
  • Thirst
  • Less frequent urinating / dark-colored urine
  • Headache
  • Fast heart rate

How can I treat dehydration?

If you or your child is mildly dehydrated, first try to drink more water.

If you/your child show any signs of severe dehydration (below), call the doctor or go to the closest emergency room:

  • Dark, sunken eyes
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Lethargy (feeling very tired or sluggish)
  • Cold hands/feet
  • Paleness of the skin

How does dehydration affect people who are elderly?

People who are elderly and infants are the two groups of people who have the highest risk of becoming dehydrated. Older adults are less sensitive to feeling thirsty. This means they are more likely to become dehydrated. They may also be taking medications that affect how much water their bodies absorb.

When people who are elderly become dehydrated, they often have the same symptoms of dehydration as teens and adults. Cognitive decline (a common condition in people who are elderly in which age affects their ability to think, remember or concentrate) can also make it harder for people who are elderly to say or show that they are thirsty. Instead, thirst may look like the following:

  • Altered mental status (confusion or a disruption in how the brain typically works)
  • Fatigue (feeling overly tired)

Rev. 12/2022. Created by Idris Ali, MS4, at the Medical College of Georgia (Class of 2023). Reviewed by the MGfC Family Advisory Council. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treat any medical conditions.