Hydration tips for sporty kids
By Claudia Keech

We're all keen to encourage children to enjoy sport and exercise, but it's equally important to ensure that they stay safely hydrated during activity by drinking the right fluids.

Dehydration occurs when the body is low in fluids because a person is not drinking enough to replace what is lost through sweat. Common warning signs of dehydration include: thirst, headache, dizziness, weakness, irritability, fatigue and nausea.

You might not be aware that dehydration and heat illness are bigger risks for your children than they are for you! Heat illness can be a real problem for children so it's vital that parents are aware of the risks and negative health effects of dehydration, so that they can act to prevent problems occurring.

Children who are 8-12 years old can lose up to a litre of sweat during two hours of activity on a hot day. (see reference 1, 2 below)

Children are more susceptible to heat illness than adults when active in hot weather (3) Why?

  • Children produce more metabolic heat per kilogram of body weight during exercise. They also have a reduced sweating capacity, which lessens their ability to lose heat through sweat evaporation. (3)
  • Like adults, children frequently do not have the physiological drive to drink enough water to replenish fluid loss during prolonged exercise. (4 )
However dehydration is preventable and the key to prevention is preparation and drinking the correct amount of the right fluid.

These are some easy steps that you can take to ensure that your kids stay healthy and well hydrated whilst enjoying sport:

Hydration Tips

Choose the best fluids for kids to drink. While water is readily available to most kids, research shows that active kids don't always drink enough water to stay fully hydrated (5). It's proven that children drink more of a fluid that is sweet and flavourful, which is where specially formulated sports drinks such as Gatorade come into play!

A scientifically formulated sports drink like Gatorade helps kids stay better hydrated (5) because it:

  • Replaces electrolytes active children lose through sweat, helping to maintain the right balance of fluids in the body (2).
  • Contains flavour and sodium to encourage drinking when active.(5,6)
  • Contains an optimal amount of carbohydrates, 6%. Too many carbohydrates can slow the absorption of fluids into your child’s body.

Teach your kids to drink at regular intervals, not just when they're thirsty. By the time thirst kicks in, they're likely to be already hydrated.

It's important that at training and games, coaches, managers, and parents are aware of the warning signs of dehydration and have an action plan to make sure that kids take a drink break every 20 minutes – or more frequently during extreme weather if needed. Regular drinking needs to become a habit and a way of life for active kids.

The key is to make sure that your kids replace the fluids they lose in sweat without overdrinking. Water can't do it alone. Think of fluids like Gatorade as essential safety equipment for sports, like a bike helmet or shin guards – always pack a squeeze bottle for your child’s practice and game.

Remember the hydration ABC's!

Always drink before, during and after activity. 
Bring the right fluids. Sports drinks like Gatorade hydrate best (3)
Consider fluids as part of essential safety equipment for sports

Additional information about kid's hydration and drinking schedules are available from the Parents section of the new Gatorade website, www.gatorade.com.au.

Here you can also learn more about how to make sports fun, rewarding and safe for little athletes and view the latest research on how Gatorade stacks up against other popular children's drinks such as fruit juice and soft drinks. Log on to read the many resources available and learn more about how to keep your kids healthy, active and well hydrated.

1.    Iuliano S. et al. Evaluation of the self-selected fluid intake practices by junior athletes during a simulated duathlon event. Int J Sports Nutr 8:10-23, 1998.
2.    Meyer F. et al. Sweat electrolyte loss during exercise in the heat: effects of gender and maturation.
Med Sci Sports Exerc 24:776-781, 1992.
3.    Bar-Or O. Temperature regulation during exercise in children and adolescents. In: Gisolfi C, Lamb DR, eds.Perspectives in Exercise and Sports Medicine, Il. Youth, Exercise and Sport. Indianapolis, IN: Benchmark Press; 1989, 335-367.
4.    Rivera-Brown A. et al. Drink composition, voluntary drinking and fluid balance in exercising, trained,
heat-acclimatized boys. J Appl Phys 86:78-84, 1999.
5.    Wilk B. and Bar-Or O. Effect of drink flavor and NaCl on voluntary drinking and hydration in boys exercising
in the heat. J Appl Physiol 80:1112-1117, 1996.
6.    Passe D. et al. Impact of beverage acceptability on fluid intake during exercise. Appetite 35:219-225, 2000.