Whether your child participates in organized sports or simply enjoys playing outdoors, proper hydration is critical.
Active children generate more heat than adults, but they also sweat less. This can cause overheating, dehydration, and heatstroke; all of which can be life threatening if left untreated.
Dehydration decreases strength, energy, reduced cognitive functioning, and coordination. Keep your athlete in top performance by ensuring hydration before, during, and after exercise.
Children should be allowed free access to water and be able to drink whenever they feel thirsty. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends children drink 6-8 8 ounce glasses of water every day for children and adolescents. Boost this amount if your child is active outdoors and schedule hydration throughout the day.
- Drink 4-8 ounces one to two hours before activity and again at 10 – 15 minutes before activity
- Children ages 9-12 years old should drink 3-8 ounces for every 20 minutes of activity
- Teenagers should drink 1-1.5 liters per hour of activity
- 9-12 year old children should drink 3-5 ounces per hour following exercise
- Teenagers should drink 6-8 ounces per hour following exercise
Moderate temperate water is best, but if exercise lasts longer than one hour or conditions are hot and humid, sports drinks are an acceptable way to replace fluid and electrolyte losses.
If your child needs variety try offering:
- Diluted fruit juice (no more than 8 – 12 ounces a day for children 7 years or older and limited to 4-6 ounces per day for children younger than 7 years)
- Low sugar sports drinks
Be sure to avoid carbonated, caffeinated, or high carbohydrate beverages. Caffeine may raise blood pressure and disrupt adolescent sleep patterns. Energy drinks have no therapeutic benefit and may put some children at risk of serious adverse health effects.
Every year more than 200,000 US children are admitted to a hospital for dehydration, and are often treated with an IV. Keep your kids safe this season. Hydrate them early and often.
Dr. Alanna Patsiokas is a pediatric hospitalist at The Children’s Hospital at TriStar Centennial in Nashville, TN.