School is almost back in session and with it comes after school sports practice and increased physical activity outdoors. This time of year, there’s a higher risk of heat-related illnesses such …
School is almost back in session and with it comes after school sports practice and increased physical activity outdoors. This time of year, there’s a higher risk of heat-related illnesses such as heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Heat-related illness occurs on a spectrum but, in its worst form, it can cause disability and even death. Heat-related illness is preventable. Athletes and families playing outdoors should take extra precautions to stay cool and familiarize themselves with the symptoms of heat-related illness and prevention.
Heat exhaustion is the body’s response to a significant loss of water and salt, usually through excessive sweating. Signs of heat exhaustion include rapid heart rate, light-headedness, vomiting, fatigue and feeling weak. Despite these symptoms, an individual with heat exhaustion maintains a normal mental state.
If an athlete or family member starts to experience these symptoms, get them to a cool place quickly and have them rehydrate with water or a sports drink. Monitor them carefully and if symptoms persist or worsen, seek medical attention.
Heat stroke is often the progression of heat exhaustion and occurs when the body can no longer regulate its temperature properly and the core internal body temperature reaches 104 degrees Fahrenheit or higher. It can be caused by a number of factors including strenuous exercise, being in high heat and humidity for an extended period of time and dehydration.
Certain medications, sickle cell disease, obesity, heavy uniforms, fever or even prior heat illness can also be factors. Symptoms of heat stroke include increased heart rate, disorientation, altered mental status and loss of consciousness.
If an individual experiences these symptoms, it is a life-threatening emergency that requires immediate medical attention. If possible, submerge the individual in an ice bath until EMS arrives. If brought to the Vanderbilt Bedford Hospital for a heat-related illness, medical professionals will administer IV fluids depending on your level of dehydration, check your electrolyte levels and conduct blood work.
For athletes practicing sports after school or families doing physical activity outdoors, take time to acclimate to the weather and hydrate properly. Take adequate breaks and eat healthy snacks and meals throughout the day. Watch the weather forecast for high temperatures and heat advisories. Avoid the outdoors between 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and plan your workouts and strenuous physical activity during sunrise or sundown.