Help Athletes Beat the Heat
Most healthy children and teens can play outdoor sports in hot weather with no ill effects. But student athletes who practice or compete in high heat and humidity may risk severe heat exhaustion or heatstroke. For the sake of their health, they must be adequately conditioned and their activities must be modified and monitored.
Whether you're a parent, coach or anyone else involved in youth sports, now's the time to refresh your understanding of how to keep active children free from heat-related illness.
The American Academy of Pediatrics released guidelines for adults who have a part in youth sports activities during high temperatures. They should:
- Make sure trained personnel and equipment are on site to treat heat-related conditions.
- Educate participants on the importance of coming to games and practices well-hydrated and well-rested.
- Provide children and teens with 10 to 14 days of preseason activities to get them ready for the demands of being physically active in high heat and humidity. Athletes should wear their team uniforms and safety equipment during those activities.
- Supply athletes with plenty of clean water or sports drinks at regular intervals before, during, and after play or practice. Children ages 9 to 12 should consume 3 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes. Adolescents require 34 to 50 ounces an hour.
- Modify student exertion levels by shortening practices, reducing intensity levels and increasing the number and length of breaks. It's also a good idea to hold games either before 10:00 a.m. or after 5:00 p.m. to avoid the hottest time of day.
- Limit physical activity for any child who is ill or recovering from illness.
- Make sure children are watched at all times for signs of heat illness. Those signs include dizziness, headache, flushing, fatigue, vomiting, change in mental function or feeling extremely hot or cold. Any child with these symptoms should stop activity and get medical attention at once.
These recommendations can also help keep kids cool:
- Participants should wear light-colored, lightweight clothing.
- Frequent player substitutions allow players to rest and recover.
- Coaches should be told whether children are taking medications that could increase the effects of heat and humidity. Those players' roles may have to be reduced.
Physical activity is vital to keeping children healthy. Making sure kids stay cool and hydrated needs to be part of the playbook.
Sources: American Academy of Pediatrics, Krames Staywell