Continual hydration of children participating in youth sports is essential to their health and athletic performance. Just as critical as the food your child consumes, drinking enough fluids during sporting events and when at practice can diminish his or her risk of a heat associated illness. While parents often associate proper hydration when their children play sports during summer months, drinking enough fluids is just as critical in colder weather.
To maintain your child’s health, it is important for them to properly hydrate before, during and after their sporting event or exercise. Preadolescent children have a higher susceptibility to developing some heat related condition, especially heat exhaustion, as compared to teenagers and adults. Because of a younger child’s special fluid needs, their parent and coach need to take responsibility by developing precautionary solutions to prevent a heat illness, anytime they exercise.
When your child participates in sports, exercises, or plays at excessive levels, their muscles continually generate heat. This action automatically raises their core body temperature. As a response, the body becomes hot and begins to sweat. The sweat will then evaporate on the skin to cool the temperature of the body. During the sweating process, the water that was lost through perspiration must be replaced. If your child does not drink more water or fluids, the water balance of your their body will remain upset, creating the potential for overheat exhaustion.
Drinking plenty of fluids will cool your child’s body’s core temperature down to healthy levels. Studies show that the easiest way to promote water or fluid intake in your child is to offer them with fluids that contain sodium, such as sports drinks. Providing them with the quality sports drink can increase their voluntary drinking to prevent dehydration, as compared to drinking unflavored, plain water.
It is important to begin drinking fluids prior to the sporting event or exercise. Without proper hydration at game time, the child is at risk to the detrimental effects caused by dehydration.
The regimen for drinking fluids before an event involves:
- 4 to 8 ounces of cold water at least one to two hours before any exercise or sport events.
- 4 to 8 ounces of cold water approximately 10 to 15 minutes for any exercise or sport events.
- Your child needs to eat a healthy meal that contains fluids and water, such as fruits.
The regimen for drinking fluids during a sporting event involves:
- Your child should make a point of drinking anytime they feel thirsty.
- Your child should be made to drink at least 5 ounces of a sports drink every 20 minutes in game or when exercising, whether thirsty or not.
- You or the coach needs to encourage your child to drink fluids during breaks and timeouts.
- You or the coach should encourage the child to drink from their own fluid containers anytime they are thirsty, without waiting for a break or to be told.
- The consumption of fluids should be adjusted according to the weather, the seasonal climate, workout intensity, equipment worn and duration of practice.
The regimen to follow for hydration after a sporting event or exercise involves:
- It is imperative to rebalance the fluids lost during practice with a sporting event.
- At some time within the first half hour after the event or exercise, your child should consume a formulated sports drink that contains carbohydrates and protein. The carbohydrate will replenish the lost nutrients within the muscles, while the protein promotes muscle repair.
Keeping your child well hydrated will allow them to maintain their body temperature, and minimize the risks of associated heat-related illnesses. Taking a proactive stance to protect your child will maintain their health and enhance their athletic performance.