As summer continues to progress and temperatures rise to dangerous levels, the threat of heat-related injuries and illnesses skyrocket. Coaches, athletes and parents need to recognize the hazards of intense physical activity in the heat and take precautions to prevent injury and illness. Healthy children and athletes can engage in outdoor sports in hot weather; however, the motivation to “be the best” can sometimes lead to dangerous health-related situations. As your children start to head out for practice this summer, here is what you need to know about keeping them safe during practice in the heat.
Why it Matters
Emergency plans for heat-related injuries and illnesses are a critical component to every parent’s and coach’s toolkit. Cheerleaders are susceptible to these injuries and illnesses, as they often practice outdoors in the heat. Intense outdoor physical activity can lead to a series of illnesses, such as heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heatstroke.
Heat cramps are mild and easily treated. They are characterized by persistent, painful muscle spasms that appear after long periods of exercise.
Heat exhaustion is a moderate illness and occurs when physical activity continues after negative effects are experienced. Symptoms of heat exhaustion include dehydration, headaches, diarrhea, and persistent muscle cramps. While heat exhaustion affects everyone, young athletes are particularly vulnerable to its effects.
Heatstroke is a very serious illness that can lead to permanent disability or death if left untreated. Symptoms of heatstroke include an increased heart rate, high core body temperature, and hot or wet skin. Call 911 immediately and attempt to cool the athlete to prevent serious damage.
How to Deal with Heat-Related Illnesses
If you suspect that a child or athlete is suffering from a heat-related illness, it is important to get help immediately. Heat cramps are treatable by replacing fluids and sodium with a sports drink. Massages and light stretching may also help eliminate muscle cramping. Heat exhaustion is treated by elevating the child’s legs above the heart, moving the child to shaded or air-conditioned areas and replenishing fluids with chilled water or sports drinks. If a child is suffering from a heat stroke, 911 should be called and cooling efforts should begin immediately. Heat-related illnesses can be prevented by being prepared. Children should wear light, airy clothing, take breaks, stay hydrated and wear sunscreen to protect against heat-related illnesses.
There are risks in every sport, but many accidents are preventable. Keep children safe and healthy by being prepared. Measure temperature and humidity to assess heat stress, keep athletes hydrated with cold water or sports drinks and pay attention to signs of heat illness. Early recognition is critical to successfully treating heat illnesses and preventing serious episodes.
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