With long summer days and athletes in your house, if heat exhaustion isn’t a hot topic of conversation, it needs to be. To maintain your body’s ideal core temperature your blood vessels expand; this brings body heat to the surface of your skin, which then perspires. The flowing perspiration then evaporates from your skin to cool the body. Heat exhaustion occurs when sweat is not able to evaporate fast enough and your body becomes overheated. This has the potential to become very dangerous. Summer performing athletes are at especially high risk for this condition. Dehydration is the first sign of risk, followed by heat exhaustion itself. If this is not treated properly, it can progress into heatstroke.
The best thing you can do is take precautions to lessen the chance of getting heat exhaustion in the first place. Here are just a few tips:
- Stay active and build fitness in the non-summer months so that your body is acclimated to extensive strain.
- If possible, try and avoid intense exercise outside between the hours of 9 a.m. and 6 p.m. in the summer.
- Wear loose clothing that is light-colored to reflect the sun’s rays rather than absorb them.
- Take occasional rest breaks to allow time for your body to cool down.
- Drink an abundance of fluids. Drinking water long before a workout, just prior to an event, and every 15 to 20 minutes during a workout is essential to staying hydrated.
It would be great if everyone could always adhere to the above tips and never become dehydrated, but this is not always the case. Some symptoms of heat exhaustion to be aware of include:
- Muscle cramps
- Poor sporting performance
- Rapid heartbeat
- Clammy skin
If any of the above symptoms are realized, use discretion and take the appropriate measures to manage the heat exhaustion. The following list has a few good remedies:
- Move to a cool and shaded area
- Take off any unnecessary clothing
- Drink fluids
- Sponge the body with lukewarm water
(Don’t soak yourself with cold water. Cold water makes the blood vessels constrict and this will cause you to retain more body heat)
- Seek medical assistance if needed
- If someone is showing life-threatening signs, call 911 immediately
If the worst-case scenario, death, were to occur because the coach/organization disregarded safety requirements and proceeded with a dangerous practice, they may be liable for a wrongful death. Most states have guidelines that coaches must follow that resemble the following:
- Practicing for too long (in certain summer months, a time limit is placed on the length of a practice as well as the time needed before the next practice may be held)
- Holding practice when the heat index is too high
- Not providing easy access to water
- Not considering a certain player’s medical issues (sickle-cell carries may be at a higher risk for heatstroke)
- Making players wear full uniform when the heat index is too high
- Using unusual and unsafe workouts
If your child has been exposed to excessive heat during a sports event that has compromised his/her health, you may want to consult an attorney to see what constitutes as negligence (or recklessness) in your area.
Participating in sports outdoors is one of the greatest aspects that accompany summer. Being mindful of potential risks can prevent health problems and promote a great sports season! Not to mention, a well-hydrated athlete is not only at less of a risk of heat exhaustion, but also much better equipped to perform to their full potential physically.