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Summer Simmers On: Keep Kids Safe from Heat Illnesses

J.PattonTo say this summer has been a hot one would be a huge understatement. There have been record-breaking temperatures, soaring heat indices, and days and days on end of heat advisories here in Kansas. Even though summer is ending soon, it’s still important to keep an eye on those climbing temperatures to prevent heat illness.

Heat illness occurs when your body can’t cool itself off. It happens most often when you stay out in the heat too long, and sweating is no longer enough to maintain a healthy body temperature. Strenuous exercise can also factor into a heat illness. Although heat illness can happen to anyone, it occurs most often in older adults, young children and those who are sick or overweight.

According to the Centers for Disease and Control Prevention, there are four types of heat illness to be on the lookout for:

1. Heatstroke: This is the most serious of all heat illnesses. It is a life-threatening condition that occurs when the body temperature rises above 106 degrees in mere minutes. Symptoms include a rapid, strong pulse, dizziness and dry skin.

2. Heat exhaustion: This often occurs right before heatstroke. Symptoms include a fast, weak pulse, rapid breathing and heavy sweating.

3. Heat cramps: These occur during heavy exercise and include muscle pains or spasms.

4. Heat rash: Any skin irritation from excessive sweating is considered a heat rash.

Educate your kids about heat illnesses to keep them on the field having fun.
Photo by clappstar/Courtesy

Luckily, as 7.5 million high school football players gear up for another preseason packed with sweaty, sweltering practices, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) has a few new suggestions about how to keep heat illnesses at bay.

The new policy suggests that beating the heat is a group effort that coaches, adult and kids must work together to achieve. The organization listed the following recommendations for staying safe as it sizzles outside:

• Provide risk-reduction training for coaches, trainers and other adults.
• Ensure trained staff is available on-site to monitor for and promptly treat heat illness.
• Educate children about preparing for the heat to improve safety and reduce the risk for heat illness.
• Allow children to gradually adapt to physical activity in the heat.
• Offer time for and encourage fluid intake before, during and after exercise.
• Modify activity as needed given the heat and limitations of individual athletes. Practices and games may need to be canceled or rescheduled to cooler times.
• Provide rest periods of at least 2 hours between same-day contests in warm to hot weather.
• Limit participation of children who have had a recent illness or have other risk factors that would reduce exercise-heat tolerance.
• Develop and have in place an emergency action plan.