Your child is sweating in the summer heat. What should she be drinking?

Commercials will have you believe that there’s no healthier choice on a hot day than a sports drink. After all, these tasty, colorful drinks claim to replace electrolytes. That sounds like a good thing, right?

Electrolytes are nutrients, such as sodium, calcium and potassium, that keep nerves and muscles working properly. They are very important to our health, and we lose them when we sweat.

But it’s much harder for a child to lose electrolytes than commercials suggest.

“Children have to sweat a lot for electrolyte levels to drop,” says Tara Todd, RD, LD, registered pediatric dietitian at St. Louis Children’s Hospital. “While sports drinks may seem tasty, water is a better choice nine times out of 10.”

If your child needs to spend more than 60 minutes exercising in very hot weather, a sports drink—plus water—may be a good idea. But in general, stick with water. Todd suggests adding fruit to give it some natural flavor.

“Sports drinks have a lot of sugar and additives,” Todd says. “They really aren’t good for most kids, and they won’t help your child be a better athlete.”

Thirsty for more information? Call the St. Louis Children’s Hospital Family Resource Center at 314.454.KIDS (5437) or 800.678.KIDS and press “5” to have nutrition resources sent to you.

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Expert Advice