Source: Connect with Kids
“I think it’s just education that the parents need to be aware of how serious heat-related illness can be I mean it certainly can cause death on the athletic field and the athletes certainly need to be aware of this.”
– David Marshall, M.D., Sports Medicine
Every year, about this time in the summer, a few high school athletes will die from heat stroke, and hundreds more will be hospitalized. But many coaches and trainers now have a tool that gives them an early warning.
The bright sun… a hot day… and a hard workout: that combination can be dangerous.
A recent practice had 17-year-old Austin Farmer on his knees. “[I] started feeling a little dizzy. And then, you know, throw up,” he says.
Dizziness and nausea are typical signs of heat exhaustion, but like many high school football players, Austin is reluctant to take a break.
“You have the whole team out there practicing,” he explains, “And everybody else is in the heat, but you don’t really want to seem like you’re the weakest link on the team.”
But ‘toughing it out’ can be costly. “The progression from heat cramps to heat exhaustion to heat stroke and death can occur very quickly,” says David Marshall, M.D., who heads up the Sports Medicine Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta.
Now, more and more coaches and trainers are using a ‘heat index monitor’, which measures temperature and humidity. Out on the football field on a hot afternoon, with the temperature in the mid 90’s and humidity around 50-percent, Trainer Geoff Koteles takes a reading. “So the heat index right where we’re standing right now is 111 degrees.”
That means it feels like 111 degrees outside. That puts it in the red, ‘danger’ zone.
Workouts should be short, if at all. “Yeah you’re not really going to run them any longer than 15, 20 minutes,” explains Koteles.
Next is the orange ‘extreme caution’ range. Kids can exercise but need lots of extra breaks for rest and water.
Experts say parents should insist their schools coaches or trainers use a heat index monitor. But another important thing that can help protect their kids is teaching them that trying to ‘tough it out’ in the heat is foolish.
“A kid laying in the morgue, the morgue who recently died of heat illness doesn’t look very tough to me,” says Dr. Marshall.
“I talked to my mom about it and then she say if you’re feeling tired go get some water,” says Austin, “Cool down or whatever, because I want you to come home at the end of the day.”
Tips for Parents
School is starting around the country, and that means many high school sports are as well. These sports – including football, cross country, soccer and field hockey – are some the most physically taxing sports, yet they are practiced and played before summer has ended. This increases the likelihood of heat-associated problems among athletes during these times. According to experts at the Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association, most of the heat problems have been associated with football due to the equipment and uniforms needed for the sport. When proper precautions aren’t taken, overheated athletes can become subject to heat cramps, heat syncope, heat exhaustion and heatstroke. According to Frederick Mueller, the head of University of North Carolina’s exercise and sport science department, heatstroke deaths are “100 percent preventable” if coaches maintain safe conditions, such as providing athletes with plenty of water, allowing plenty of cool-off sessions during practice, and/or modifying practice lengths and exercises.
According to experts at the Hamilton County (Ohio) General Health District (HCGHD), heat exhaustion or heat stress can be defined as the overheating of the body due to excessive loss of water. Heat exhaustion is caused by prolonged exposure to hot temperatures, limited fluid and/or insufficient dietary salt intake. Signs and symptoms of heat exhaustion are:
■Dizziness or faintness
■Slow, weak pulse
■Rapid, shallow breathing
■Possible nausea and vomiting
The experts at HCGHD state that heat stroke occurs when the body’s cooling system breaks down. Sweat glands often stop working and the body overheats. When body temperature exceeds 105 degrees, the brain and the organ tissues can begin to die. Ignoring heat exhaustion is a primary cause of heat stroke, but heat exhaustion symptoms are not always present before heat stroke sets in. Although loss of the ability to sweat is the prominent symptom of heat stroke, physically active people may still sweat lightly. Look for these symptoms in addition to lack of sweat:
■Hot, dry, flushed skin
■High body temperature
■Very rapid or very slow heartbeat
■Confusion or disorientation
■Loss of consciousness
It is important to note that physically active people are not immune to heat exhaustion and heat stroke during the summer months. Even if your child is active, these heat illnesses can quickly overcome him/her. To protect your child’s health when temperatures are extremely high, remind him/her to keep cool and use common sense. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the following tips are important:
■Drink plenty of fluid.
■Replace salt and minerals.
■Wear appropriate clothing and sunscreen.
■Don’t overdo it.
■Stay cool indoors.
■Schedule outdoor activities carefully.
■Use a buddy system.
■Be especially careful if ill or on certain medications
■Adjust to the environment.
■Use common sense.
■Massachusetts Interscholastic Athletic Association
■University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
■Hamilton County (Ohio) General Heath District
■Center for Disease Control and Prevention
■Texas Christian University