Prevent Heat Related Illness/ Heat Stroke With These Tips

From Dr. Brooke Pengel

If you are sweating  watching the sporting event, imagine what it is like for the athletes.  For parents and coaches alike, managing young athletes’ hydration is a critical component of any practice to prevent heat related illness.

Before practice

Young athletes need to prepare for practice with 16 ounces of water. For coaches, it’s best to build up to exertion by allowing 7-14 days for athletes to acclimate to the heat and exercise. High temperatures can be a shock to the body, so a proper amount of time is needed to get athletes prepared for the stress of exercise in the heat.

During practice

It’s important to allow several water breaks during practice. Breaks should be every 15-20 minutes and athletes should have the opportunity to drink four to eight ounces of water at each interval.  Cold fluids are ideal for absorption. Remember, thirst is not an indicator of dehydration.

Heat Related Illness

Heat related illness occurs in a progression: heat cramps ( can occur anywhere along the progression) -> heat exhaustion -> heat stroke.

Heat cramps will present first as painful involuntary muscle spasms.  When this occurs remove the athlete from heat, give them fluids and some salty food, and gently stretch and ice the muscles that are cramping.

Heat exhaustion when the athlete is unable to continue with exercise. The key indicators of heat exhaustion  elevated core temperature, dizziness and fatigue. Other symptoms to watch for  are headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid pulse, and profuse sweating.  Dehydration is usually present. Immediate Intervention includes:

  • Move athlete to a shaded area
  • Removing unnecessary clothing and equipment
  • Cool the athlete rapidly with cold water towels
  • Begin hydration
  • Get medical assistance as soon as possible

Heat stroke is a medical emergency. When it is not recognized promptly treated immediately death can occur. The clear indicator of heat stroke is mental status changes and flushed, hot, and red skin.  Even though the individual has been exercising there is no indication of sweat on the body.  Heat stroke can occur abruptly.

Call 911 if this occurs, know your closest emergency room, and immediately begin to cool the athlete: move to a shaded area, remove excess clothing, and immerse in water with a shower, hose, ice bags, ice towels, or water bottles. 

Every coach, parent, and team need a emergency plan there great importance in the timing to prevent a tragedy.

Prevention is the key.  Have a good plan to beat the heat:

  • Weather app on smart phone
  • Water and sports drinks available
  • Tent for shade
  • Coolers filled with ice and towels

Remember, all heat related illness is preventable. Keep those athletes safe!