3 ways to protect your child while playing outdoors

By Janis Meredith | Posted 8/21/2017

Outdoor athletes face unique challenges. They don’t just battle sports opponents. They combat the heat, sun rays, and bugs. Teach your child how to hydrate properly, stay protected from the sun and beat the bugs.

1. Hydration

The most important part of a young athlete’s diet is hydration. Drinking water or sports drinks before, during and after sports is important for children and pre-teens because they have different fluid needs than adults or even teenagers.

Water is not just something to drink when you are thirsty. Your body needs water – our bodies are made up of 60 to 70 percent water – to cool down. When the body gets hot, it sweats. The evaporating sweat cools the body. If your child doesn’t replace the water lost through sweating by drinking fluids, the body’s water balance will be upset and the body may overheat.

To keep from becoming dehydrated, your child must drink fluids before, during and after exercise. My husband, a coach for 29 years, always told our kids to make drinking water a lifestyle, not just something they did right before a game or even just on the day of a game.

MomsTeam.com makes these suggestions for hydration:

Before Sports

Ages 13 to 18

  • 1 to 2 hours before sports: 8 to 16 ounces of cold water
  • 10 to 15 minutes before sports: 8 to 12 ounces of cold water

Ages 6 to 12

  • 1 to 2 hours before sports: 4 to 8 ounces of cold water
  • 10 to 15 minutes before sports: 4 to 8 ounces of cold water

All ages: Every 20 minutes during sports: Between 5 and 10 ounces of water or sports drink, depending on weight

2. Sun Protection

UV radiation exposure from the sun during childhood and adolescence plays a role in the development of melanoma and basal cell skin cancer. With more than half of your child’s lifetime UV exposure occurring during youth, using sun protection can reduce the risk of melanoma later as an adult. And don’t let a cloudy day fool you. Even when it’s overcast, 70 percent of the sun’s rays get through the clouds.

Here’s how to prevent sunburn and skin damage:

  • Use a sunscreen with SPF of 15 or higher. If fair-skinned, use a sunscreen with SPF of 30.
  • Apply sunscreen 30 minutes before exposure to the sun to give it time to penetrate the skin.
  • Reapply sunscreen every three to four hours.


3. Bug Protection

There’s a lot of bugs waiting to feast on you and your child. Mosquito bites are not always just annoying. They can bring illness too. The latest threat is the mosquito-born Zika virus. We can’t ignore the little pests anymore.

When choosing a bug repellant, be mindful there are differences. For instance, many repellants contain DEET, a registered pesticide that is absorbed through the skin and passes into the blood. The most serious concerns about DEET are its effects on the central nervous system. Do not use anything with more than 30 percent DEET on anyone.

It’s important that you are not so busy focusing on skills, injury prevention and playing time, that you neglect protecting your child in these three ways.

Janis B. Meredith is a sports parenting blogger, podcaster, and life coach. She provides resources to help parents give their children a positive and growing youth sports experience. Learn more about good sports parenting habits in her book, 11 Habits for Happy & Positive Sports Parents, available on Amazon.