Boy and girl playing on beach.

The Quick Guide To Playing Outdoors

This article is a written review of the benefits of kids playing outdoors.

Summer brings with it training camps and competitions. By keeping a close watch on hydration and heat conditions, kids can participate without the stress of illness and injury. Here are tips to avoid the ill effects of the heat, because children are that much more vulnerable.

Get your child to perform adequate conditioning/training before participating in a competition: 3-6 weeks in the same climatic conditions.

Let her acclimatise for approximately 2 weeks in similar conditions of the event, heat/humidity/altitude, especially when travelling from cold to hot conditions.

Take her to events early in the morning and avoid training during the hottest time of the day.

Provide a minimal amount of loose-fitting, light-coloured clothing (open weave/mesh top) or technical wear from brands like Nike, Columbia, Salomon.

Start hydrating the night before the event (urine should be plenty and clear).

Get her to drink up to 500 ml of water gradually, 30 minutes prior to exercising in the heat.

Maintain equal body weight before and after the training, by hydrating through the event: drinking 100-200 ml during exercise for every 15 minutes will help.

Offer plain water for exercises up to 1 hour. For endurance events lasting more than 1 hour, use a dilute glucose-salt solution (add 1 tbsp honey, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 big pinch salt, the juice of 1 lime, to 1 litre of water). Children should not wait until they are thirsty.

Replace fluids and electrolytes even after completion of the event, until your child goes to bed. At this point, a glass of juice is fine too, but should be had within 20 minutes of the exercise.

Give children who swim, water to sip on through the workout.

Remember both refuelling (taking in glucose/carbohydrates/amino acids) and rehydrating (taking in water, electrolytes) are important. When there’s a break in the game, refuelling is important, and can be done with buttermilk, for instance. After the game, a fruit milkshake which keeps up hydration and nutrition, is good.

What if… heat stroke

  • Mild
  • Mild heat illness can come from heat fatigue, heat cramps (in the calf, quadriceps) and heat syncope (fainting). Your child will see signs of muscle tightness, postural hypotension and increased heart rate). Remove the child from hot conditions, get him to lie down, elevate legs and pelvis, give an ice bath and ORS. Allow your child to rest, and put ice packs on the groin, axilla (armpit), neck.
  • Moderate
  • Moderate heat exhaustion can be detected from headaches, weakness, nausea, vomiting, confusion, ataxia (dysfunction of the nervous system seen in a change in walking style), increased sweating and heart rate, decreased BP. The best treatment for this is IV fluids, which means you should take your child to a hospital.
  • Severe
  • This is a medical emergency.
  • There is impaired consciousness,
  • often dry hot skin (but may also be cold and sweaty) and the child may require assisted respiration. People who are obese, unfit, the very young or old, and those who have not been acclimatised, may all fall prey. Those with fever, viral infections (gastroenteritis, upper respiratory
  • tract infection) are at an increased risk. If your cousin’s child comes in from Switzerland and hits the field with the kids used to playing locally, insist on smaller durations and proper acclimatisation over 2 weeks.

The author is a musculoskeletal and sports physiotherapist, a Performance Matrix Movement Specialist who has worked with national- and Olympic-level athletes; he is an ultra trail runner and outdoor adventure enthusiast