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Potassium in Children

by Caitlynn Lowe

Maintaining a balanced level of potassium in your child's diet helps ensure a stable blood pressure. According to the Baby Center Medical Advisory Board, potassium and sodium work together in order to control the body's balance of water. Too much or too little potassium in your child's diet could upset this balance and cause health problems.

Potassium Requirements

Children require different levels of potassium for optimum health. According to the Linus Pauling Institute at Oregon State University, infants up to 6 months of age require 400 mg per day, while infants from 7 to 12 months need 700 mg per day. The need for potassium jumps up after infancy. Children 1 to 3 years old need 3,000 mg, children 4 to 8 years old need 3,800 mg, and children 9 to 13 years old need 4,500 mg. Once children reach the adolescent stage, 14 to 18 years old, their optimum potassium level equals that of an adult, at 4,700 mg per day.

Potassium-Related Health Risks

While rare, illnesses connected to potassium imbalance can occur. Hyperkalemia occurs when a child has too much potassium, and hypokalemia happens when a child has too little potassium. In both cases, fatigue, muscle weakness, intestinal problems and abnormal heart rhythms accompany potassium imbalance. Too little potassium could also cause high blood pressure. As Comer Children's Hospital explains, though, children experiencing renal failure should avoid potassium-rich foods, since the kidneys cannot filter enough out.

Potassium-Rich Foods

Fruits naturally high in potassium -- containing 201 mg or more per serving -- include bananas, apricots, cantaloupe, dates, kiwi, oranges, pears, prunes and tomatoes. Potassium-rich vegetables include potatoes, beets, brussel sprouts, sweet potatoes, pumpkin and spinach. Common mid-range foods containing 101 to 200 mg of potassium per serving include apples, cherries, blackberries, grapes, peaches, plums, pineapple, strawberries, watermelon, broccoli, carrots, celery, cauliflower, corn, eggplant, onions and turnips.

High Potassium Diet Tips

If you suspect your child lacks potassium, look for natural ways to include more of the nutrient using potassium-rich produce. Make smoothies using bananas, strawberries or other fruits containing high or middle-range levels of potassium. Cut up potassium-rich vegetables and serve them alongside light salad dressing, peanut butter or other tasty dips and spreads. Give your child tomato juice, orange juice, prune juice or grapefruit juice during meals. Avoid giving your child potassium supplements unless specifically recommended by your doctor.

Low Potassium Diet Tips

If you need to put your child on a low potassium diet, replace potassium-rich foods with foods that contain low amounts. Serve rice or noodles with dinner instead of potatoes. Give a lower potassium juice to your kids during meals, like apple, cranberry or grape juice. Leech out as much potassium as possible by soaking vegetables in water for 4 to 6 hours before cooking. Plan meals to include foods with little potassium. Low-level potassium foods containing under 100 mg per serving include blueberries, lemon, cranberries, cucumber, lettuce and peppers.

About the Author

Caitlynn Lowe has been writing since 2006 and has been a contributing writer for Huntington University's "Mnemosyne" and "Huntingtonian." Her writing has also been in "Ictus" and "Struggle Creek: A Novel Story." Lowe earned her Bachelor of Arts degree in English from Huntington University.

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