You are watching your child play football. Suddenly, your child seems irritable, tired, and is not playing football as well as usual. Your child could be dehydrated. Untreated dehydration can cause heat related illness such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids then it takes in. Helmets and padding used in football, and other sports, increase the amount of sweating, contribute to greater fluid loss and may cause dehydration. Children are also prone to dehydration since they produce more heat when exercising, sweat less, have inaccurate thirst response to heat and do not adjust to sudden heat as well as adults do.
Children are more prone to becoming dehydrated if they are overweight, have a chronic illness such as diabetes, do not exercise regularly, have had a previous heat related illness and have extra layers of clothes on when playing sports.
Children should have a physical examination before playing any sport. If your child has gotten dehydrated playing sports in the past or has had a heat-related illness, let your child’s coach and physician know. The coach should also have your emergency contact numbers.
Before playing any game or practice, make sure your child drinks at least eight ounces of water 30 minutes before the activity. The athlete should also have water with them for every game and practice. The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends five ounces of water for an 88 pound child every 20 minutes and nine ounces of water for a 132 pound adolescent every 20 minutes. Athletes should also receive a 5 to 10 minute rest period for every 20 to 25 minutes of physical activity.
Kids will know if they are drinking enough water if there urine is the color of clear lemonade. If they are dehydrated if their urine will resemble the color of apple vinegar. A parent can check for possible dehydration by weighing the child before the game or practice and then weighing them after the game or practice. If the child weighs one pound less after the game or practice, then they have to drink at least 16 ounces of fluid to prevent dehydration.
The basic signs of dehydration are irritability, decreased concentration, fatigue, dizziness and headache. Teach your child to tell his coach if he/she experiences signs of dehydration during the game.
Clothing during sports should be limited to a single layer of light-colored, lightweight material to prevent dehydration and other heat related illness.
Children should be acclimated to the heat gradually over a two week period since they do not adjust to sudden increased temperatures.