Dehydration and youth sports: Curb the risk
If you're sweltering in the stands at a youth sporting event, imagine what it's like for the athletes. Learn who's at risk of dehydration — and how to prevent it.
By Mayo Clinic Staff
Anytime children or adolescents play sports or exercise in hot weather, they're at risk of heat-related illnesses. Understand how heat-related problems happen and what steps you can take to prevent them.
Risk factors for dehydration
Your child might be vulnerable to dehydration and other heat-related illnesses in a hot or humid environment if he or she:
- Wears clothing or protective gear that contributes to excessive heat retention
- Rarely exercises
- Is overweight or obese
- Is sick or had a recent illness, especially involving diarrhea, vomiting or a fever
- Is taking certain supplements or medications, such as cold medicine
- Has had a previous heat-related illness
- Has a chronic condition, such as diabetes
- Isn't well-rested
Acclimating to the heat
Heat-related problems are most likely within the first few days of practice in a hot environment. That's why it's best to take it easy at first, gradually increasing the amount of activity — and the amount of protective equipment — as the days pass. Young athletes might need up to two weeks to safely acclimate to the heat.
During hot and humid conditions, coaches are encouraged to:
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- Require young athletes to drink plenty of fluids before practice and during regular beverage breaks — even if they aren't thirsty
- Make sure clothing is light colored, lightweight and loosefitting, or exposes as much of the skin as possible
- Decrease or stop practices or competitions if necessary, or move them indoors or to a shady area
See more In-depth
- Howe AS, et al. Heat-related illness in athletes. The American Journal of Sports Medicine. 2007;35:1384.
- Greydanus DE, et al. Caring For Your Teenager. New York, N.Y.: Bantam Books; 2003:442.
- Parents' and coaches' guide to dehydration and other heat illnesses in children. National Athletic Trainers' Association. http://www.nata.org/health-issues/heat-illness. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, et al. Heat illness among high school athletes — United States, 2005-2009. MMWR. 2010;59:1009. http://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/mm5932a1.htm. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- American Academy of Pediatrics, et al. Climactic heat stress and exercising children and adolescents. http://pediatrics.aappublications.org/site/aappolicy/index.xhtml. Accessed July 9, 2014.
- Bergeron MF. Reducing sports heat illness risk. Pediatrics in Review. 2014;34:270.
- Pryor RR, et al. Exertional heat stroke: Strategies for prevention and treatment from the sports field to the emergency department. Clinical Pediatric Emergency Medicine. 2013;14:267.