Falls sports season is in full swing and the heat is on! Heat illness in children participating in sports is a real concern, which is why it’s extremely important for everybody — especially parents on the sidelines watching their children participate — to have some information regarding heat-related illness. Heat illness, a spectrum of disorders due to environmental exposure to heat, results from a combination of high temperature and humidity. Understanding the signs of the three main heat-related conditions can help parents and coaches act quickly and treat children appropriately.
Heat Cramps, Heat Exhaustion, Heat Stroke
Heat cramps are painful muscle spasms that can happen during or after exercise in hot weather. Excessive sweating and muscle fatigue are contributing factors. Rest, gentle stretches and rehydration can help resolve these spasms. Heat exhaustion is a moderately severe condition that left untreated, can lead to heat stroke. Exercising in a hot, humid environment can result in this type of heat-related syndrome. The signs of heat exhaustion include heavy sweating, paleness, cold skin, nausea, extreme tiredness and weakness, dizziness and headache. Both heat-related illnesses can be treated by stopping activity, moving the victim to a shaded area and proper hydration. Heat stroke, a potentially life-threatening condition, may develop if heat exhaustion is not treated. Heat stroke occurs when the body’s temperature is too high and is unable to cool itself down. Heat stroke is characterized by an elevated body temperature (above 103°F), hot and dry skin (no sweating), rapid pulse, loss of consciousness and nausea or vomiting. If you think a person is experiencing heatstroke, seek immediate medical attention or call 911. While waiting for help, move the child out of the heat and try cooling the body down by spraying with cool water. Do not give the victim fluids.
Preventing heat-related illness
Children who jump into activities without being acclimated to the weather can subsequently develop a heat-related illness. Heat acclimation is effective, and gives athletes time to adapt to the heat. If your child is not already doing so, encourage him or her to train outside prior to the start of the season.
Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to help prevent any heat-related illness. Encourage your child to always properly hydrate before, during and after activity. Make sure your child is getting plenty of fluids throughout practices and games.
If you notice your child struggling, have them stop activity immediately. Bring your child to a shaded, cool spot and keep water, cold compresses and ice on hand for circumstances that require immediate cooling. If a child does not recover quickly from a heat-related illness, seek medical treatment promptly.