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Give Young Athletes Plenty of Fluids

Give Young Athletes Plenty of Fluids

Odds are you wouldn't let your daughter play catcher in a baseball game without a facemask. You wouldn't send your son onto a football field without a helmet, either. But here's a sports precaution you may overlook -- getting kids to drink water and other healthy fluids.

Our bodies are about 60 percent water. During hot weather, if young athletes don't get enough water to replace what is lost through perspiration, they face the risk of dehydration. Dehydration means not having enough fluids in the body to function normally and can lead to serious heat-related illness.

Children face a higher risk of dehydration because:

  • Their bodies aren't as efficient as adults at cooling themselves by sweating.

  • Their muscles generate much more heat than adults.

  • Their bodies have a greater surface-area to body-mass ratio than adults. The smaller the children, the faster they absorb the sun's heat.

Serve children sports drinks in a flavor they like. Research has shown that children will drink almost twice as much if they're given sports drinks. Children should avoid caffeinated beverages such as sodas. If exercise is occurring in hot temperatures, sports drinks that contain electrolytes are preferable to water.

To keep children hydrated, have them drink 12 ounces of fluid 30 minutes before they take to the field. Then, for every 20 minutes of activity, they should drink 5 ounces if they weigh 90 pounds or less and 9 ounces if they weigh more. During the first hour after activity, children should drink every 20 minutes.

You should be especially wary during the first two weeks of warm weather. The body must adapt to the heat and tends to sweat more. That makes it crucial for children to take it easy at first and gulp down healthy fluids (one gulp equals about half an ounce).

Signs of dehydration

Thirst is the first sign of dehydration, but some children on the playing field may ignore thirst. After a while, other signs of dehydration begin to appear:

  • Dry lips and mouth

  • Decrease in reaction time

  • Decrease in physical performance

  • Irritability

  • Nausea

  • Headache

  • Apathy

  • Disorientation

A child with any of these signs should be taken to the shade to rest and given water or sports drinks. Excess clothing should be removed. If the child still feels dizzy or faint, the child should be seen by a doctor. Disorientation, inability to drink, or pale, dry, warm skin indicates a serious condition that should be treated as a medical emergency.

 
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