Keeping Kids Hydrated and in the Game!
Do you recognize the necessity of hydration? Since our bodies are about 60 percent water, maintaining the proper fluid balance is of the utmost importance. Water allows our cells, tissues, organs, and systems to work at peak levels. In the case of sporting events, hydration is one of the most important parts of healthy success. For children and young people, the likelihood of dehydration and resulting heat illness is greater, and more worrisome. For that reason, children who are involved in sports (especially in the summer) need to be aware of the causes and signs of dehydration while doing physical activity. Dehydration is more than simply being uncomfortable and thirsty. A human body that does not have enough water can experience lethargy, discomfort, pain, and even heat stroke.
Children who are thirsty during physical activity may already be somewhat dehydrated.
When the body loses fluid through either direct (waste) or indirect (sweating, breathing) means, fluid from organs and tissues will move to veins and arteries, so that the circulatory system can continue to operate. This also helps to regulate body temperature. If the fluid from the organs and tissues is not replaced by fluid intake (drinking), the circulatory system can be overwhelmed, and unable to control temperature. This loss of regulation may lead to heat exhaustion characterized by elevated temperature, headache, cramping, dizziness, fatigue, chills, nausea, and anxiety. If the athlete continues to push themselves, they could experience heat stroke, indicated by disordered thinking and seizures.
Factors that affect the chances of dehydration include:
- Environment - Outdoor temperature, humidity, and sun exposure can alter fluid balance. Children do not adapt to these as well as adults do.
- Health - An athlete's health and fitness level are directly related to what their body can handle when it comes to physical activity.
- Intensity - How hard a sport is played will affect how much fluid is lost through sweating.
Children on American football teams have an increased risk of dehydration for a number of reasons. The sport requires intense physical activity. Added to that are the helmet, pads, and clothing keep a lot of heat very close to the body. The exertion and temperature work together to make athletes sweat heavily, and thereby lose fluid. In the midst of games and practices, it might be tough for players to remember to rehydrate. If your child is involved in sports, or even just normal outdoor play, they ought to understand why their hydration is so important, and how to protect themselves from dehydration. Becoming accustomed to physical activity is the first step. Kids who are planning to join organized teams should start exercising and training beforehand, working up to activity levels that will be expected from coaches. They should also make a habit of drinking plenty of water before, during, and after activity. When actually on the court or field, children and coaches must stay aware of the environmental factors, and be prepared to reduce physical intensity. Playing and practicing during the cooler parts of the day (before 11 am and after 3 pm), and wearing light colored and lightweight clothing are good preventive measures. Children with the following conditions are particularly vulnerable to dehydration, and might need to be watched more closely:
- Overweight or obese
- Recent illness which caused vomiting or diarrhea
- Previous heat-related illnesses
- Un accustomed to exercise
While popular sports drinks are a good way to regain the electrolytes (elements essential to the electrical impulses of your cells) lost during activity, they are not inherently good for you. They are full of sugar, and should only be used during serious physical exertion, and not just as a drink for normal summer thirst. For children and young people that are thinking of making sports an integral part of their lives, it is good to know that high schools and colleges are becoming more and more proactive about keeping their athletes hydrated. If kids make fluid balance a priority now, their performance will continue to improve in the future. Nothing is more important to the budding athlete! Sources: http://www.mayoclinic.com/health/dehydration/SM00037 http://www.youthsportsny.org/2009/01/beating-the-heat-keeping-well.html