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!
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