Continuous activity in hot temperatures can place extra stress on the bodies of children and teenagers and result in dehydration and/or heat illness. Parents, teachers, and coaches need to be aware of these serious health risks and how to help prevent them.
To avoid becoming dehydrated, children and teens need to drink liquids before and during activity.
- Water is the best choice. Because of its fast absorption, water quickly hydrates the body
- Every 20 minutes a child should drink 5 to 8 ounces of fluids during activity
- Before exercising, a child should drink 8 to 12 ounces of water, sports drink, or other fluid
- High concentrations of carbohydrates (fruit juice, fruit drinks, carbonated drinks, etc.) can cause an upset stomach in some children
Temperature and humidity are two important factors to consider when physical activity is outdoors. Parents, teachers, and coaches need to closely supervise children playing in extreme heat. Anytime the temperature is higher than 90 F, caution needs to be taken. Morning or late evening times are recommended for physical activity. When determining if it is safe for children to play outside, take into consideration that humidity affects the body’s ability to cool itself. When the temperature is below 90 F, add the temperature and humidity together. If the sum is between 130 and 150, you and your children should be cautious and limit the amount of outdoor activity. If the sum is greater than 150, vigorous outdoor activity should be avoided.
- Heat cramps Painful cramps and spasms of active muscles–commonly in the calf muscle–caused by intense, prolonged exercise in the heat and depletion of water and electrolytes due to sweating.
First aid: Replace fluids, stretch the affected muscle, and rest.
- Heat fatigue Feeling of weakness and tiredness caused by the depletion of water and electrolytes due to sweating.
First aid: Remove protective equipment or appropriate clothing, replace fluids, cool body, and arrange for a medical evaluation.
- Heat exhaustion Overheating of the body caused by excessive loss of water or in some cases salt depletion.
Symptoms: Restlessness, dehydration, prickling or burning sensation, weakness, headache, vomiting, nausea, loss of appetite, dizziness, diarrhea, fainting, pale skin color, lack or loss of coordination, and/or dilated pupils.
First aid: Get out of the heat, immediately drink liquids, and rest until the symptoms are gone; generally the child should not do any other exercise that day.
- Heatstroke A serious medical emergency that occurs when the body’s thermoregulatory system stops working. Heatstroke is associated with high body temperature, lack of sweating, disorientation, seizures, and possible unconsciousness or coma. It may occur suddenly without being preceded by any other clinical signs.
Symptoms: Unconsciousness, hot/dry skin, strong/rapid pulse, low blood pressure, constricted pupils, rising body temperature, dizziness, headache, weakness, loss of coordination, and/or nausea.
First aid: Put the person in cold water or rub him down with ice until the body temperature drops and get immediate medical attention.
Precautions need to be taken when children or teens are engaged in outdoor physical activity in hot temperatures. Encouraging fluid replacement, providing water breaks, and reducing the amount of time spent outdoors during extreme heat are a few ways to help reduce the risk of dehydration and overheating.