Summer is into full swing and it seems to keep getting hotter. Keeping kids adequately hydrated is an important factor in their health, especially as temperatures rise and fall sports begin. Patrick Mularoni, M.D., Pediatric Emergency Physician and the medical director of the Pediatric Sports Medicine Division at Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital, offers tips for parents to help keep kids hydrated.
What can we do to keep our kids well hydrated?
It’s not only about making sure that your child is drinking but what they are drinking is most important. Unfortunately, children are hydrating with the wrong liquids which often contain caffeine. Soda, tea, coffee and energy drinks are becoming the go-to drink for teens, and these caffeine-containing drinks can actually lead to increased urination and dehydration. We must encourage kids to drink water since it is always the best choice for hydration. With all of the sugar rich “ades” on the market, we see more children going right to a carbohydrate rich drink. Although these drinks can benefit an athlete during extended activities, they should be hydrating with water as well.
How do know if your child is drinking enough water?
The best way to gauge hydration is looking at what is coming out of you. It may be funny to talk with children about urine, but urine color is a great indicator of hydration. Pale yellow to clear urine is an indication of good hydration. As urine gets darker, that tells us our body is trying to hold on to extra water. When the body can no longer steal water from concentrating urine the body starts to become dehydrated. Problems can arise when kids are dehydrated including muscle aches, headaches, and abdominal pain because the body steals water from the gut leading to constipation. Bottom line – we want our urine to look like lemonade and not apple juice.
How much does temperature play a factor in dehydration and should we avoid letting kids play outside during extreme heat?
There is no specific temperature to avoid, but humidity is more important to take into consideration. Unfortunately, in Florida’s summer months we deal with extremely high humidity. The better measure is heat index. Heat Index is described as a combination of humidity and temperature. Humidity is important in that equation and we can reach the danger range at just 86 degrees of temperature when the humidity is 90 percent. Our humidity in the Tampa Bay area is usually around 80 percent with the highest daily humidity in the morning. This humidity is important because when we sweat we are relying on evaporation of water on our skin to decrease our temperature. If the humidity is high, then there is more water in the air and the water on our skin evaporates slower. If sweating isn’t working properly, we will sweat more, which can lead to dehydration.
What are the most important tips for athletes starting fall practice during these hot summer months?
Learn more about AllSports Medicine's Sports Nutrition Program
- Start hydrating before you get to the field
- Drink water during breaks in practice even if you are not thirsty
- Watch urine color after training
This information was shared on WTVT-TV’s Doc on Call segment, which is aimed at helping parents learn more about children’s health issues. The segment airs each Monday morning on Good Day Tampa Bay.