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 get physically active 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 a chronic condition, such as diabetes
- Isn't well-rested
Acclimating to the heat
The risk of heat-related problems is greater within the first few days of activity 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
- Limit activity at midday, when the temperature is hottest
- Decrease or stop practices or competitions if necessary, or move them indoors or to a shady area
- Ensure that fluid is available at all times
See more In-depth
- Bergeron MF. Hydration in the pediatric athlete — How to guide your patients. Current Sports Medicine Reports. 2015;14:288.
- Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness and Council on School Health, et al. Policy statement — Climatic heat stress and exercising children and adolescents. Pediatrics. 2011;128:e741.
- Extreme heat and your health: Heat and athletes. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. https://www.cdc.gov/extremeheat/athletes.html. Accessed May 30, 2017.
- Casa DJ, et al. National Athletic Trainers' Association position statement: Exertional heat illnesses. Journal of Athletic Training. 2015;50:986.
- Yeargin SW, et al. Epidemiology of exertional heat illnesses in youth, high school, and college football. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise. 2016;48:1523.
- Parents' and coaches' guide to dehydration and other heat illnesses in children. National Athletic Trainers' Association. http://www.nata.org/practice-patient-care/health-issues/heat-illness. Accessed May 24, 2017.
- Somers MJ. Clinical assessment and diagnosis of hypovolemia (dehydration) in children. https://www.uptodate.com/home. Accessed May 26, 2017.