Heat-related illnesses can be a serious threat to youth athletes in the hot summer and early fall, sometimes resulting in death. In fact, between the years of 1995-2009, 31 high school football players died from heat-related illnesses. While heat exhaustion is complex, one step in reducing it is to prevent dehydration.
Considering that two-thirds of youth athletes show up to practice already dehydrated, parents and coaches need to be particularly vigilant about the warning signs a young athlete may be experiencing dehydration.
- Dry skin when the child might normally be sweating
- Dry, sticky mouth
- Lack of urine
- Sunken eyes
- Muscle cramping
Of course the key to avoiding dehydration and heat exhaustion is to maintain your body’s fluid and electrolyte levels. This can be done simply by drinking water regularly throughout the day before a practice or sporting event, as well as during and after the event.
Thanks to the numerous (and often unhealthy) drink options out there for kids, it can be difficult to convince them to drink the proper amount of water. Not to mention, a healthy balance of electrolytes can be altered if too much water is taken in. Below are some alternatives to popular sports drinks (which are loaded with terrible ingredients) and water for keeping your young athlete hydrated.
- Coconut water with a splash of lime juice is great for hydration AND restoring electrolytes
- Herbal tea prepared the night before and cooled for drinking – with all the variety of flavors and benefits of different teas, this is an increasingly viable option
- Homemade drinks are quick and you can ensure undesirable ingredients are left out. Below are a couple of recipes:
- 3.5 cups water
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 1/4 cup maple syrup
- 1/4 teaspoon salt
For the adventurous kid, try adding chia seeds to the drink. From Ashley Marcin at Walk Jog Run
- 1 tablespoon Chia seeds
- 1 cup chilled green tea
- 2 cups water
- 1 cup coconut water
- Squeeze lemon or lime
- Drip of honey (optional)
- 1 cup lemon juice (approx 6-8 lemons)
- 1/2 cup honey or maple syrup (purchase raw honey here)
- 1 teaspoon sea salt (purchase unrefined salt here)
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda