Preventing dehydration in children with cystic fibrosis who exercise in the heat.


June 1999

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In healthy children who exercise in the heat, the addition of flavor, carbohydrate, and 18 mmol x L(-1) NaCl to water induced a major increase in voluntary drink intake compared with the intake of unflavored water. This increase was sufficient to prevent voluntary dehydration. We hypothesized that, to achieve a similar effect in children with cystic fibrosis (CF), whose NaCl losses in sweat are markedly excessive, the drink should include an NaCl concentration higher than 18 mmol x L(-1).

Eleven subjects with CF (6 girls, 5 boys, ages 10.9-19.5 yr) attended three 3-h sessions of intermittent exercise of moderate intensity (four 20-min bouts), at 35 degrees C, 50% relative humidity. Either water (W), flavored water (FW), or a 30 mmol x L(-1) NaCl plus 6% carbohydrate solution (Na30) was offered ad libitum, in a counterbalanced sequence. Six subjects performed an additional session in which they drank a 50 mmol x L(-1) NaCl-6% CHO solution (Na50).

There was no significant drink effect on body fluid balance, core temperature, heart rate, or serum electrolytes with W, FW, or Na30. Serum osmolality decreased throughout the sessions from 290.6 +/- 1.1 (mean +/- SEM) to 281.3 +/- 1.2 mmol x kg(-1) (P < 0.0005), serum sodium from 143.1 +/- 0.5 to 141.1 +/- 0.7 mmol x L(-1) (P = 0.01) and serum chloride from 109.1 +/- 0.5 to 107.5 +/- 0.5 mmol X L(-1) (P < 0.001). In contrast, the 50 mmol x L(-1) NaCl drink induced a near significant (P = 0.08) higher fluid intake, and it significantly ameliorated the rate of progressive dehydration.

The marked loss of NaCl in the sweat of CF patients may induce an hypo-osmolar state in the serum, even when the drink contains 30 mmol x L(-1) NaCl. This may diminish the thirst drive triggered by hypothalamic osmoreceptors and may lead to voluntary dehydration. A flavored drink with an even higher salt content (50 mmol X L(-1)), however, enhances drinking and attenuates the voluntary dehydration.

Med Sci Sports Exerc. 31(6):774-779.

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