School Sports Events for small children: Staying healthy.[Kids 4-12y age]
Original Post from 4 Aug 2017 (Originally written on request of parents of kids taking part in pre-school inter-school football tournament)
Sport is a great way for kids to enjoy, exercise, make friends, learn life skills and stay healthy. To get the best out of a sports event, especially on a warm, sunny day with plenty of physical activity, staying hydrated and getting appropriate rest periods in between is important.
Here are some points that may help make the event a good experience for everyone, especially the kids.
- Kids are more likely to get dehydrated at sports events than adults.
- Kids usually sweat more than adults. This increases risk of dehydration in kids.
- Kids can get so engrossed in play that they may not, on their own, respond to their body’s cues to drink fluids.
- Kids tend to get sunburn and heat related health problems more than adults.
- New and poorly fitting footwear are a common problem at sports events. Sometimes parents get new shoes for their kids for sports events. This isn’t a good idea. Poorly fitting shoes can cause injuries and spoil the whole fun experience. A properly fitting and known-to-be comfortable shoe are preferred and safer.
- If your child is unwell (with a fever, bad cold, severe cough, etc) on the day of the sports event, OR they have not adequately recovered from a recent illness, do not allow them participation. Their health comes first.
Before sports events
A. Nutrition and hydration: The most important part of preparing for healthy sports event is to eat well and staying hydrated even before starting the event.
- Let kids eat a light, high-carb meal a minimum of 4-6h before the start of the sports event. Avoid too much fat and oils in that meal. They may slow down digestion and remain in the stomach for long.
- A fruit snack, like a banana, maybe eaten 2h before the start of the event. Make sure not to give more than kid can comfortably eat.
- Pre-hydrate with water or electrolyte fluid (like ORS / Hydralyte) to prepare for the event
- Give 4-8 ounces of plain water 1-2h before start of the event.
- Offer another 4 ounces of water 15m before start of the event.
- Do not force the water on child. Encourage and be responsive to kids needs.
B. Plan for a sunny day: if the event involves exposure to sun before, during and after the event, make plans to protect from harmful effects of excessive sun exposure.
- Use an appropriate sunscreen (preferably strength SPF30 or more).
- Make sure you have tested the sunscreen on kids skin earlier to ensure there is no hypersensitivity to it.
- Have shady areas where kids can take shelter.
- Between events, plan to get child to wear a hat/cap to protect against sun.
C. Plan for rainy day: if the weather appears to be overcast and there is chance of rain, be prepared. Getting drenched in cold rain after a period of exercise and not being able to get out of the wet clothes can be harmful. Plan to have a covered area as rain shelter. And an extra set of dry clothes maybe important too.
During sports event
D. Nutrition and hydration: plan ahead and keep plain water, electrolyte fluids (like ORS / Hydralyte) and special fruit-snacks* handy to keep the kids hydrated and energized during the event.
- Every 20-30 minutes offer about 5 ounces of water or fluid.
- Not all kids will drink the whole amount. But offering the fluid is important as kids may not remember themselves.
- The water or fluid may be kept cooled so that it helps cool down kids after physical activity.
- When longer breaks are anticipated between activities during the event, offer special fruit-snacks* (small chunks of chilled watermelon, cantaloupe, honeydew melon, grapes, banana and orange slices). Do NOT add glucose or salt to these. This is unnecessary and offer no additional health benefits.
- Sugary drinks such as Milo, flavored Indomilk, Rani Juice, Jussie, and other such drinks are NOT healthy and must not have a place in healthy sports events.
E. Allow kids to rest in between activities. Sitting or lying down in the shade for a few minutes may be sufficient.
F. Ask them if they need toilet breaks between activities. Kids may become engrossed in play that they may neglect such needs.
G. If kids complain that they are too tired, take their word for it. Let them rest. You may have to consider allowing them to be a spectator for remainder of the sports event. Their health comes first.
H. Be ready for minor first-aid needs. Kids can easily have falls, bumps, abrasions and scratches during sports events. Keep an ice-pack (for bumps and sprains) and disinfectant wash/spray (for minor scratches, abrasions and bruises). Cover the minor abrasions, scratches or bruises only if they are likely to get contaminated during further play.
After the sports event
I. Re-hydration and meal: the aim is to replace all the fluid lost in sweat during the sports event. Plain water and electrolyte solutions (like ORS / Hydralyte) are preferred.
- Offer 5-8 ounces of water to be consumed within 2-4h of the end of the sports event.
- Plan to have the post exercise meal about 2-4h after the event. A light high-carb meal is best.
J. Allow kids to rest well after the sports event. A quick shower and a nap may be a good idea.
Q. Some kids may complain of aches and pain, especially in the legs on the night of a day with strenuous physical activity. Warm massage and gentle stretching exercises before bed time maybe a good idea to prevent such episodes.
Best wishes and hope teachers, parents and most importantly kids have a fun and enjoyable sports event.