Special Heat Precautions Urged for Athletes

Ruzanna Harutyunyan's picture

With football season and cross-country track beginning this month for many Iowa schools, drills, conditioning, and practices are in full swing across the state. While any child who exercises in the heat may be at risk of dehydration or heat illness, young athletes who participate in sports that begin in the late summer are at greater risk. Recent steamy conditions should serve as a reminder for coaches, athletes, and parents to be aware of heat-related illnesses.

"Even athletes who are in great physical condition need to take special care when exercising in hot weather," said Iowa Department of Public Health (IDPH) Medical Director, Dr. Patricia Quinlisk. "Classic symptoms of heat stroke include confusion or clumsiness, and the victim's body feels extremely hot when touched. In severe heat stroke, the victim can go into a coma in less than one hour. If the symptoms are ignored, the results can be fatal."

A young athlete may be especially vulnerable to heat-related illnesses in the summer if he or she rarely exercises, is overweight, has recently been ill with vomiting or diarrhea, or has had a previous heat-related illness. Football players, who exercise hard while in full protective gear, are at higher risk of heat-related illness.

The best defense against heat-related illness is prevention. If you must exercise in the heat:


* Drink more fluids (nonalcoholic), no matter what your activity level. Don't wait until you're thirsty to drink.

* Wear lightweight, light-colored, loose-fitting clothing.

* Try to rest often in shady areas.

* Limit your outdoor activity to the cooler morning and evening hours.

* Ease into strenuous activity. It takes the body up to two weeks of activity in hot weather to be ready for full work-outs in the heat.

Parents are encouraged to remind their children to pay attention to how their body reacts to the heat. Dry or sticky mouth, headache, dizziness and cramps are early signs of heat illness. Young athletes should not be embarrassed to report these signs and symptoms to the coach right away.