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:

  • 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
Aug. 14, 2014 See more In-depth