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Preventing Heat Stroke

What You Need to Know

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Updated December 12, 2009

Preventing Heat Stroke

Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are conditions that can affect athletes during the warmer months of the year. According to the CDC:
  • Symptoms of heat exhaustion include paleness, muscle cramps, fatigue, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting, and fainting. The skin may be cool and moist; sweating may or may not occur. The pulse rate will be fast and weak, and breathing will be fast and shallow. If untreated, heat exhaustion may progress to heat stroke.
  • Symptoms of heat stroke include a body temperature above 103 degrees Fahrenheit, red, hot, and dry skin (no sweating), rapid, strong pulse, throbbing headache, dizziness, nausea, confusion, and unconsciousness. Heat stroke is a serious condition; even if treated, many people with heat stroke will die.
To prevent heat related illnesses, you should make sure that your child:
  • stays cool and well hydrated
  • becomes slowly acclimated, over 10-14 days, to hot temperatures when practicing or playing sports
  • drinks plenty of fluids, especially water, when exercising and playing sports, even if he isn't thirsty. A common recommendation is that children drink water before the activity, about 8 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes while playing or practicing (less for smaller kids and more for bigger kids), plus more after the activity is over. However, children playing sports should have unrestricted access to water. Although water is usually recommended, the AAP states that a 'flavored beverage may be preferable because the child may drink more of it,' including sports drinks. Fluids to avoid include those with caffeine, carbonation, alcohol or with a lot of sugar (Total Carb more than 6-8%), such as soda, fruit juices and some sports drinks. If you are unsure if your child is drinking enough fluids when exercising, it can be a good idea to weigh him before and after the activity. A loss of more than 3% of his body weight is considered extreme and may put your child at risk of heat related illnesses.
  • takes frequent breaks to cool down and rest
  • if possible, wears lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing
  • is supervised with personnel that have training in the prevention, recognition and treatment of heat exhaustion and heat stroke
Most importantly, make sure that your child recognizes the symptoms of heat related illnesses and knows to get help even if told to keep playing. And remember that heat related illnesses don't just affect football players. They can affect children playing almost any sport in the heat, and members of the band and drill team.
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