As summer rolls in, temperatures across the country reach upwards of 80-degrees Fahrenheit and can get over 100-degrees in some states like Arizona or Texas. All this hot weather brings with it increased risk of heat-related injuries, from cramps to heat stroke, especially for those who are active outdoors.
Too much heat can have a substantial impact on young athletes. Directly or indirectly, excessive heat can cause ailments and exacerbate already existing conditions. Hundreds of people die of heat stroke every year, and children, especially young athletes, are a particular risk, with 19 exertional heat stroke (or EHS)-induced fatal cases of high school and college athletes reported between 2010 to 2015.
This article will give you the information you need to recognize and manage the symptoms of heat overexposure and heat stroke so your players can safely optimize their workouts over the summer months. Activity in the heat is not inherently bad and does not need to be prohibited, so long as athletes practice management and caution for their wellbeing.
MOST COMMON HEAT-RELATED INJURIES
The CDC lists many symptoms that excessive heat exposure can induce, including muscle cramping, fatigue, headache, nausea or vomiting, and dizziness or fainting.
These ailments can all stand alone, and do not equate farther harm, but if left untreated, they can progress into more serious illnesses, such as life-threatening heat stroke.
More urgent symptoms of overexposure to the heat, which might be classified under “dizziness or fainting” on the CDC’s list, are heat exhaustion, which requires urgent care, and heat stroke (or sunstroke), which requires emergency care.
KNOW THE SIGNS
There are ways to recognize your body is pushing itself too far, and these signs should be taken seriously and responded to so discomfort does not worsen into harm or serious injury. If more than one of these symptoms are present concurrently, you may need to seek medical attention.
The first signs of heat-related injury are:
- a throbbing headache
- dizziness or light-headedness
- lack of sweating (despite the heat)
- red, hot, and dry skin
- muscle weakness or cramps
- nausea and vomiting
- rapid heartbeat
- rapid, shallow breathing
(This list taken from WebMD. See link below.)
When these symptoms occur, the best thing to do is to cool down by drinking water and resting in the shade. If the body is pushed past the point of these symptoms, more serious injury is likely to soon follow.
WHAT TO DO IF HEAT STROKE OR HEAT EXHAUSTION OCCURS
If an athlete has heat exhaustion, they will generally appear to be exhausted or worn-out and dizzy. They will have an increased temperature and likewise be profusely sweating. Heat exhaustion is the step before heat stroke, and should be treated seriously. This athlete should be cooled down quickly and given plenty of water, but they should be able to last through the car ride to the hospital without an ambulance.
If an athlete suffers heat stroke, the initial response is to call 911. This athlete may have cool or moist skin, an increased heart rate, and quick, shallow breathing, which demonstrates the body working to cool itself down, but incapacity to do so. They will have a temperature of 104 or higher, be delirious, and may experience seizures. While the ambulance is on the way, place ice packs on the child (most effectively under the neck and armpits) and spraying them with water. If possible, have the athlete drink.
Most heat-related injuries, like heat exhaustion and heat cramps, are caused by loss of excessive fluid and salt from the body. So the best things to do are to drink lots of water and/or electrolyte-replacing sports drinks, and limit outdoor/strenuous activity during the hottest hours of the day, generally the middle of the day. Workout intensity should be reduced and periods of activity should be shortened in days of extreme heat.
If the weather reports warn that it is too hot to walk or be outside, it is probably too hot to play sports. Remember, safety comes first. But if parent nor coach find it necessary to curtail the workout, and the athlete feels fit enough to play, make sure they drink lots of water and get rest in the shade every so often.