Can Babies Drink Gatorade?

Hands up if you have a bottle of Gatorade or a similar sports drink in the fridge? This probably applies to a lot of us that like to drink this instead of plain water. But, how many of you use it on your kids when they are sick? There is an assumption that this sports drink is a healthy way to deal with dehydration and upset stomaches This isn’t the case because of the ingredients involved and their true purpose. But, we still see lots of kids drinking these drinks and energy drinks. So, how bad is Gatorade for kids and what should we use instead?


Is Gatorade Bad For Babies?

The bottom line here is that Gatorade and other related sports rinks are not good for babies and young children. There are even warning about older kids using them when there is no need to. Gatorade is designed to help athletes replenish electrolytes after intense physical activity. In these situations, the drink can prove to be advantageous and prevent medical issues. However, Gatorade’s intent doesn’t apply to children and there are concerns that kids will drink too much of this sugary drink thinking that it is healthy.

This may come as a surprise to some parents that readily provide Gatorade or Powerade to their children during training for matches for competitive sports. It may also cause some confusion for parents that want to give babies Gatorade when they are sick. So, we need to go deeper into the implications and situations where this drink is and isn’t appropriate.


Can Babies Drink Gatorade When Sick?

This is a big question for parents because there is such conflicting information online on the subject. There is the assumption that the fluids and electrolytes in Gatorade will help kids that have an upset stomach or that are dealing with dehydration. In fact, you will find blog posts and forum entries from parents that advocate diluting Gatorade to deal with these issues. However, this isn’t a good idea.

For a start, Gatorade isn’t designed for use this way. It is meant to quickly replenish electrolytes in adult bodies where they have been seriously depleted by physical exertion. It is not a recommended treatment for dehydration in sensitive infant bodies. There is also the fact that the drink is high in sugar, which can cause additional problems.


Can Babies Drink Diluted Gatorade?

That idea of diluting the Gatorade to make it safer isn’t a good idea either. Your child needs the right sort of liquids and electrolyte solution for a safe and speedy recovery. Dilution would reduce the electrolyte content while still providing kids with too much sugar. Increasing their water intake appropriately, providing formula more safely, and using ORS products are much more effective for the ideal dosage and better hydration.


Can I Give My Baby Gatorade Instead of Pedialyte?

The American Dietetic Association recommends using an oral electrolyte maintenance solution to deal with dehydration, also known as an Oral Rehydration Solution. Pedialyte is one of the best options because of the high electrolyte content, the lack of sugar, and the generally safer formula.

These ORS products are recommended by professional and children’s hospitals dealing with cases of dehydration. Pedialyte is a commonly-used form of treatment for dehydration that offers the right amount of electrolytes in a safe sugar-free convenient solution. Some parents assume that a medical product won’t be as effective as a premium drink like Gatorade or Powerade.

But, that isn’t the case at all. Furthermore, the ORS products come in different forms. You can use it as a liquid through a pre-made solution of a powder, or even get some soothing popsicles for infants to such on. These are all easy to get without a prescription and a much better option than sugary sports drinks. Just don’t try diluting the powder or mixing it into a formula for a regular feed.


Dealing With Dehydration Effectively And Safely.

The concept of kids being severely dehydrated is distressing but we know that this lack of fluids can lead to major complications and even death. At its worst, children that aren’t taking in enough fluids may need to undergo treatment in hospital with an IV solution – fluid delivered directly into the child’s vein. But, if kids are only showing milder signs of discomfort and struggling to drink, at-home intervention may be enough.

You need to be careful how you handle this because you can only give dehydrated babies a little fluid at a time. Regular teaspoons gently top up their levels without being overwhelming. Too much could trigger expulsion through vomiting, making them more dehydrated. Any high sugar solution is best avoided, as are herbal teas and broths. They may have calming elements but won’t be as replenishing as the specialist ORS products. Make sure that they continue to get enough fluid through formula or water in addition to the ORS liquid.


Can A 1-Year-Old Drink Gatorade?

The risks for 1-year-old infants are still high enough for this to be a bad idea. There is no need for them to have any Gatorade when healthy because they aren’t physically active. There are also better options for rehydration in more severe cases. An additional risk here is that your year-old infant has their new baby teeth and these are susceptible to damage from sugary drinks like Gatorade, sodas, and fruit juices.

This is partly where the confusion over Gatorade comes into play. Many parents see this as a type of healthy water with added electrolytes and other benefits for anyone drinking it. They don’t consider the sugar content or think to put it on the same level as soda and other sugary drinks. A tip-off here is the fact that one of the first search results supporting the use of Gatorade for sick kids comes from PepsiCo. Granted, they say to use it with caution, but it is a thinly veiled way to boost sales of their products.


How Old Do You Have To Be To Drink Powerade?

There is no age restriction on these drinks, but there are calls for more guidance and regulation. The American Academy of Paediatrics states that there is no need for a child or teenager to need any electrolyte replenishment when they have a healthy diet and drink enough water. They add that plain water is better for health and hydration and that kids should be encouraged to drink this instead.

Furthermore, they state that the effort given during a short physical activity, such as a gym class or training session for sports shouldn’t be enough to warrant the need for electrolyte replenishment.

Despite this, some states are keen to see greater regulation on the sale and promotion of sports drinks for teenagers and children. Connecticut has gone as far as banning sports drinks and enhanced waters in schools to make a point.


The Confusion Over Sports Drinks And Energy Drinks.

Finally, we need to talk about energy drinks and their problems regarding the health of children. Many kids don’t differentiate between sports drinks and energy drinks, or between sports drinks and sodas. They believe that the energy in each helps them out when fatigued and that this makes the drinks healthy and beneficial. The problem is that energy drinks don’t have electrolytes for rehydration. Instead, they contain caffeine and other stimulants, as well as plenty of sugar. They are fine for adults in moderation but not good for kids on a healthy sleep schedule.

Just as there is no age restriction for the sale of Powerade, there is no strict guidance on energy drinks either. The American Beverage Association advises that there should be no marketing of these drinks to under 12s, but a teenager can easily buy these large cans and drink them throughout the day. This can be dangerous as it leads to a reliance on caffeine and none of the health benefits of water or electrolyte substances.


Don’t Make Gatorade A Go-To Remedy For Any Child.

Part of the problem with kids turning to Gatorade as a “healthy” sports drink is that they have probably seen their parents using it, or maybe even seen younger siblings drinking it when sick. The use of Gatorade for babies could start kids on a slippery slope where they don’t appreciate how unnecessary the drink is. If they get into professional sport and competition as teenagers, there may be a need for it, but not as part of an everyday lifestyle. Instead, it is better to encourage children to drink plenty of water each day from a young age.

In short, there is no need to rely on Gatorade as a home remedy for sick or dehydrated babies when there are other options available. The drink may have electrolytes to help with imbalances after physical exertion, but it isn’t the ideal way to soothe a stomach or rehydrate someone.

If your child is struggling to take in enough fluids then speak to a healthcare provider about different feeding strategies and ORS products instead of reaching for a sports drink.



This post is written and edited by Sandy who is a clinical pharmacist with over 20 years of experience specializing in pre-natal and post-natal care.