Healthy Living

Young Athletes and Heat-Related Illnesses

Young Athletes and Heat-Related Illnesses

Simple measures will help to prevent heat-related illnesses in young athletes while exercising in the heat. According to American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), heat-related illness such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke can be prevented in young athletes just the same way as in adults. One of the earlier studies had shown that children are less effective in controlling body temperature compared to adults. This makes them very susceptible to heat-related illnesses. New studies show that children are equally equipped, like adults, to beat heat exertion when they are well hydrated.

According to researcher Stephen G. Rice, MD, former member of the executive committee of the AAP Council on Sports Medicine and Fitness, healthy children and adults can safely participate in outdoor sports and activities in a wide range of warm to hot weather. He claims that heat-related illness can be completely prevented by taking few precautions to protect the children. This would be the responsibility of the coaches and other adults who are in charge of the young athletes.

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Researchers say that even moderate heat can cause heat stroke and heat exhaustion, with the highest risk during vigorous activity outdoors in hot and humid conditions. Simple common sense measures can keep the children safe from heat-related problems and this should be done by the parents and adults who are in charge of running practices and games on hot days.

This recent change in the guidelines shows the acceptance of the fact that children can tolerate the higher temperatures just like the adults if they are well hydrated.

 Guidelines to keep in mind:

  • Based on the heat and individuals conditions, the activity should be modified. Practices or events should be rescheduled to cooler times.
  • In warm or hot weather, rest time of two hours should be provided between contests.
  • Participation of children who have recently recovered from an illness or those who have any other risk factors that may affect their ability to tolerate heat should be limited.
  • Coaches, trainers and other adults in charge of the young athletes should be given risk-reduction training.
  • Trained staff should be available on site to monitor and treat any heat-related illness.
  • Children should be educated about preparing for heat to improve safety and reduce the risk of heat-related illness.
  • Allow young athletes to gradually adapt to the physical activity in heat.
  • Adequate time should be given for taking enough fluids before, during and after the activity.
  • Have an emergency action plan ready before the event or practice.