Staying Hydrated At Summer Sports Camps

July 31, 2012

During the summer months, many parents are packing up their children and sending them off to summer camps, for the adventure of a lifetime. It's a time-honored tradition in many families and one that both the kids and the parents look forward to.

While  summer sports camps are enjoyed by kids of every age, parents and teachers have to pay attention to proper hydration since in light of recent studies, dehydration at such camps is very common. As the body can be made of up to 60% of water,  staying hydrated is important for everyone, and especially for children who are running about under the summer sun.

Water is  essential on a hot day because it helps regulate body temperature. Keeping children hydrated means that their body retains a cool core temperature. To avoid dehydration, they should ideally drink liquid before, during and after exercise.

According to studies published in the last few years, between 50 and 75 per cent of boys and girls attending summer sports camps are  dehydrated. The studies also found that 25 to 30 per cent of the campers studied showed signs of serious dehydration, putting them at increased risk.

The campers were dehydrated despite the availability of water and sports drinks, frequent breaks and the encouragement of their coaches to stay hydrated. The studies also showed that once children are dehydrated, it is nearly impossible for them to catch up.

Knowledge of the importance of hydration is not enough to prevent dehydration. Despite an overwhelming display of knowledge and positive attitudes about healthy hydration habits, children aged between 9 and 16 still suffered significant dehydration.

"Most campers thought they were doing a pretty good job of staying hydrated during the day, but their thirst level during practice was not a good indicator of their hydration status," said Douglas Casa, Director of athletic training education at U Conn.  "Obviously, there's a gap between their knowledge and their actual behavior."

Thirst is thereby not a reliable indicator of the children's hydration level. "They can't just rely on their thirst. They need an actual hydration strategy; a plan," Casa continued.  "We're trying to keep the campers well hydrated so they won't have athletic performance issues or put themselves at risk for heat-related illnesses.”

“We also want them to have better hydration strategies to hand going into their high school and collegiate athletic programs, which will be even more rigorous and in which the consequences of dehydration could be even greater", he concluded.

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