Tips to help children and teens prepare for games in extreme heat

While many of us are at the shore or in an air conditioned buildings, the student athletes that make us proud throughout the year may be sweating it out on the field this summer.

Whether soccer camp or football conditioning, no matter what the sport, any type of training in heat and humidity can put children and teens at risk of heat exhaustion and, in extreme cases, circulatory collapse or heat stroke.

Toni Salvatore, MD, medical director of the Pediatric Center at Greenwich Hospital, says that summer heat puts parents and coaches in a quandary. "Practice is a necessary part of getting ready for the season, but safety is paramount," she says. "As a coach or parent I would have a very low threshold if a child complained of anything from dizziness to nausea while playing sports when it's uncomfortably hot out."

The most important measure for keeping young athletes safe in extreme heat is "hydration, hydration, hydration," says Dr. Salvatore. Drinking adequate amounts of fluid before, during and after practice is key to preventing heat-related illnesses by keeping blood volume high to support circulation. Dr. Salvatore suggests athletes doubling the amount of fluid they might normally consume during practice when playing in the heat. "So if you normally have an 8 ounce glass of water during a break, make it 16. Choose water and occasional sport drinks with added electrolytes for a serious athlete," Salvatore says.

Follow these tips to help children and teens prepare for practice or games in extreme heat:
•Wear light colored, breathable clothing made of natural fibers like cotton.
•Bring a spray bottle and periodically mist the skin; or apply cool, wet cloths.
•Take frequent breaks between drills.
•Eat a light, healthy meal a few hours before practice.
•Avoid the sun and work out in shaded areas whenever possible.
•Avoid sports drinks that contain caffeine, which can act as a diuretic. (Water is the best form of hydration.)
•Inform a coach if your child has had prior heat-related illness.
•Don't rely exclusively on thermometer to assess heat risk. Humidity is a major factor in how the body perceives exertion.
•Apply, and reapply, sunscreen.

Be on the lookout for symptoms of heat stroke or other weather-related issues. Begin hydration immediately for a child who has stopped sweating (a serious symptom), has hot, dry, red skin, or who reports they feel lightheaded or dizzy. Other symptoms include nausea or vomiting, and skin that is pale and moist. In addition to water, stop the activity and seek immediate medical attention for any young athlete who exhibits these symptoms.

Source: Greenwich Hospital

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