Helping young athletes beat heat illness

If your children are starting sports practices for fall, it’s important to know heat illness can sideline young athletes.

“Students who are playing football, soccer, softball, baseball, lacrosse, track, tennis, almost any outdoor sport played in hot weather, may experience cramping. Even during practice they’re getting tight cramps, those kids are probably behind on their electrolytes,” said Richard So, MD, pediatrician with Cleveland Clinic Children’s.

Dr. So said heat illness is usually the result of overexertion in hot, humid weather and can cause fatigue, muscle cramping or heat stroke—which can be deadly.  

He recommends drinking plenty of fluids to stay hydrated. In fact, he advises athletes drink water the night before to ensure they’re well hydrated when they hit the field. 

Once play is underway, in addition to water, he suggests saltier drinks and snacks to replace lost electrolytes and prevent cramping. It’s also a good idea for kids to take frequent breaks.

If an athlete appears to be suffering from heat exhaustion, which may include headache, irritability, vomiting, dizziness, or fainting, it’s important to lower their body temperature as soon as possible.

“You put ice over their large arteries and blood vessels. You put ice in their groins, ice in the armpits and hose them down,” he said. “Number one thing is cool them down, get them in the shade and then get them as hydrated as quickly as you can. Obviously oral hydration would be the best.”

Dr. So said an athlete who is vomiting in the heat should be observed, cooled down, rehydrated, and not return to activity that day. If they have slurred speech, are confused, agitated, or having hallucinations, they should get medical help right away.

               Source: Cleveland Clinic News Service, August 2, 2022

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