Kids and Hydration
Nicolett Weston, FNP
Corvallis Family Medicine
Fall sports start up in less than a month and it seems that we start to
hear stories about heat stroke and the grueling practices these kids endure
in the end of summer heat. As we head in to the hot days of August and
many of our young athletes are finishing summer activities and getting
ready for fall sports it is important to review their nutritional needs.
You probably thought to yourself, greens, proteins and other healthy foods.
Surprisingly, the most important part of any young athlete's diet
isn't what they eat, it is what and how much they drink. As I walked
around the divisional swim meet this past weekend, I heard parents begging
their kids to hydrate between their events. I also have to practically
place the fluids in my kids' hands and tell them "drink this."
Hydration before, during and after exercise is especially important for
preadolescent children because they have special fluid needs compared
to adults or even teenagers. As a parent of younger children, I feel they
never ask for fluids and I constantly have to remind them, but I think
that older kids and teens can be just as challenging. We often don't
feel thirsty even when we're dehydrated, so it's a good idea to
drink water regularly even if you aren't thirsty.
As children exercise, their muscles generate heat, raising their body
temperatures. When the body gets hot, it sweats. The evaporating sweat
cools the body. If the child does not replace the water lost through sweating
by drinking more fluids, the body's water balance will be upset and
the body may overheat. One of the most important functions of water is
to cool the body. To keep from becoming dehydrated, your child must drink
fluids before, during and after exercise. Kids from ages 5 to 8 years
old need about 5 glasses of water a day and 6 glasses a day for kids 9
to 13 years old. Kids 14 to 18 years old need about 7 glasses a day and
adults need 8-10 glasses a day which is about 2 liters. Females generally
require a little less. However, these are baseline recommendations and
do not take in to account your child's activity level, temperature,
or what type of sport or equipment they may be using. Water and low fat
milk are the best options. They quench your thirst without giving you
all the sugar and additives found in fruit drinks and juices, soft drinks,
sports drinks and flavored mineral waters. However, to promote fluid intake
in kids, fluids containing sodium such sports drinks have been shown to
increase voluntary drinking by 90% and prevent dehydration compared to
drinking plain water. To ensure that your child is drinking enough, you
should see that he or she drinks before, during, and after activities.
Drinking fluids prior to exercise appears to reduce or delay the detrimental
effects of dehydration. One to two hours before exercise it is a good
idea to drink 4-8 ounces of cold water, and again 10-15 minutes before
practice or the event. It is also helpful to incorporate fruits in the
meal or snack prior to the practice or event as they contain high quantities
of water as well. During sports, young athletes need to drink every 20
minutes. This is when a sports drink might be a good option, especially
if the event is going to be constant exercise for over an hour. For example
if your child weighs around 80-90 pounds, 5 ounces of a sports drink would
be recommended. If your child is closer to 130 pounds, 9 ounces would
be recommended. Otherwise, water any time the child feels thirsty and
children should have the ability to drink whenever they want and not to
wait until they are told to take a break. It is also important to adjust
the fluid needs of children according to the weather, the amount of equipment
worn, and practice duration and intensity. After exercise it is important
to hydrate as well. Post-exercise hydration should aim to correct any
fluid lost during the practice and help the body recover from sports.
I encourage young athletes to drink low fat chocolate milk or specially
formulated sports drinks
containing protein and carbohydrates that are available. Not only do they
hydrate, but the protein helps the body recover from exercise by enhancing
muscle repair, and the carbohydrate replenish glycogen stores in muscles,
which are a source of fuel during prolonged exercise of an hour or more.
Within two hours after exercise it is important to make sure the young
athlete drinks 20-24 ounces of fluids for every pound of weight lost.
This is also a good time to make sure to incorporate fruits and vegetables
in to the post exercise meal or snack due to their high water content.
Some other tips to help kids drink more water include keeping chilled
water in the fridge or easily accessible. Try flavoring the water with
lemon, fruit, or mint and use attractive or easy to use containers. If
your kids are busy like mine, maybe putting the water bottle in their
hand is a great hint as well. I love this time of year and enjoy watching
our young athletes compete. Let's help them stay hydrated, be safe,
prevent injuries, and make healthy choices.
Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please
contact Nicolett Weston, FNP at Corvallis Family Medicine, a Marcus Daly
Memorial Hospital owned clinic, 1037 Main Street, Corvallis, MT 59828.
Working together to build a healthier community!