Hydration Tips

One of the most important points is that the young athlete should start an exercise activity while well hydrated. The amount of fluid an athlete needs depends on the intensity and duration of the activity as well as weather conditions and the types of clothing and equipment worn.

In general, high school athletes require 10 to 12 cups of fluid (water, fruit juice, milk, etc.) per day consumed at meals and snacks so they start exercise properly hydrated. During exercise, athletes generally require 4 to 8 ounces of fluid every 15 to 20 minutes.

Here’s an easy way to tell if you’re hydrated: check the color of your urine. If it’s less than 2 hours before training for competition and you notice that your urine is dark in color, you are not properly hydrated and you should drink more fluids.

Tips to Prevent Dehydration and Heat Illness:
* Sports drinks are an excellent choice for hydration. Athletes can usually find a flavor they like, and the electrolytes (like sodium chloride) will stimulate thirst, help the body hold onto fluid, reduce the chance of cramping, and possibly improve performance.

* Water is fine too, for events lasting up to about two hours.

* Avoid any drinks with caffeine or high fructose corn syrup, and no carbonated sodas. “Energy drinks” such as Red Bull contain caffeine and should be avoided.

* I like low-fat chocolate milk as another after-game alternative.

* The athlete should have 12-16 ounces of fluid up until about 30 minutes before the game or practice (remember that most sports drinks come in 20 ounce bottles)

* Keep sipping sports drinks or water during the practice or match, about 4 ounces at a time at the end of periods or halftime.

* Start re-hydrating within 20 minutes of the conclusion of the match. Research shows that the first 20 minutes are the most efficient time to start refueling. Try to take in 20 ounces; no need to guzzle this down, but once you start drinking try to finish the bottle over the next several minutes.

Read More “Heat Illness: How to recognize it in young athletes” Below.

I am often asked this time of year about some strategies for coaches and parents to recognize heat illness, and for some strategies to manage the young athlete. With that in mind let’s review some basic principles.

Key Points
* A good hydration strategy will go a long way toward minimizing the chance of heat illness.

* A young athlete with suspected heat illness will typically respond to cooling and re-hydration in around 15 minutes.

* Beware of hot skin. This is a possible sign of heat stroke, and is a medical emergency.

“Heat Illness” is a broad term used for a range of problems such as dehydration, cramping, dizziness, heat exhaustion and a very serious problem called heat stroke.

Young athletes are at a higher risk than adults for developing heat illnesses. Children absorb heat faster than adults, they don’t sweat as much (sweat helps the body cool), they take longer to get conditioned to exercising in warmer weather and often they don’t feel the need to drink fluids before or during exercise.

Recognizing Possible Heat Illness
Most young athletes will first start to show signs of heat-related illness through dehydration. The athlete may come off the field complaining of being tired, having leg cramps or feeling light-headed. On a hot day, be suspicious of the athletes with poor performance. They might not tell you anything -- be alert.

You might see signs of decreased performance, more fatigue than typical, they may be irritable. In more severe cases there may be nausea and headache. From the coach and parent’s perspective you’ll often need to be suspicious and watch for these signs on a hot day.

Basic Sideline Management for Heat Illness
* Get the athlete off the field and let her lie down in a cool, shaded place.

* Elevate the legs above the level of the head.

* Provide a sports drink (not carbonated, no caffeine).

* Loosen any tight fitting clothing and remove socks.

* If the player doesn’t start to feel better within 10-15 minutes, seek medical help.

* Prevent future dehydration with a good fluid management strategy

Warning Signs
Young athletes should respond within 10-15 minutes from re-hydrating. You should see them “perk up” and get back toward their normal attitude and appearance. If an athlete does not improve, it may signal more severe dehydration and they should be evaluated in the emergency department of the local hospital.

“Heat Stroke” is a medical emergency. In heat stroke, the athlete will have very hot skin that can be wet or dry, a change in normal behavior (confused, irritable), vomiting, and even seizures or loss of consciousness; the athlete will look in obvious trouble. If you have any suspicion of this, call local emergency services or 911 immediately.

If you have called for emergency help, start cooling the athlete by applying ice packs to the armpits, groin, or neck. If ice is not available, squirt cold water over the head and trunk.

Play or Sit Out?
Once the athlete suffering from dehydration and mild heat illness has started to re-hydrate with fluids, he should return to his normal appearance and attitude in 10-15 minutes and with proper fluids should be able to return to play later that day.

If the athlete has not fully recovered, it may signal a more significant problem and a physician should be consulted before the athlete returns to play.