Red Cross Offers Tips to Keep Athletes Safe in Extreme Heat


by Kevin Hagler

Young athlete stays hydrated in the heat

While Georgia is still sweating from a looming heat wave, many kids are heading back to school. And in the wake of recent student athlete deaths, the Red Cross recommends that parents and coaches take steps to ensure the safety of their kids.

(Since when did school start so early, anyway?)

Of course these tips don’t have to be  exclusive to school kids. I am on my third attempt to get in better shape this year. I’ve adopted running as my newest hobby and will run a 5k in just a little over a month! Training in all this heat has not been pleasant and these measures will definitely come in handy.

Anyway, check out these Red Cross tips and tricks  on how athletes can stay safe in the heat:

During the hot weather make sure to train early in the day or later in the evening. Parents: team practices should be held at these cooler times of day to avoid exposing players to the extreme heat. Other steps teams, schools and parents should take to protect their athletes, and themselves, include:

  • Allow athletes to get acclimated to the heat by reducing the intensity of practice until they are accustomed to it.
  • Make frequent, longer breaks a regular part of practice. About every 20 minutes stop for fluids and try to keep the athletes in the shade if possible.
  • Reduce the amount of heavy equipment –like football pads– athletes wear in extremely hot, humid weather.
  • Dress athletes, when appropriate, in net-type jerseys or light weight, light colored, cotton t-shirts or shorts.
  • Know the signs of heat-related emergencies and monitor athletes closely

Knowing the signs of heat-related emergencies and how to help someone who is suffering from the heat is especially important given the tragic student deaths which may have been prevented if the proper actions were taken. Coaches and parents need to be vigilant in watching for signs. Athletes should inform their coaches, teachers, or parents if they are not feeling well. Luckily, we have them listed below:

Heat cramps are pains and spasms that usually occur in teh legs or abdomen caused by exposure to high heat and humidity and loss of fluids and electrolytes. Heat cramps are often an early sign that the body is having trouble with heat. If someone is experiencing heat cramps:

  • Get the person to a cooler place and have him or her rest in  comfortable position.
  • Give a half glass of cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes every 15 minutes. Do not give liquids with alcohol or caffeine in them, as they can often make conditions worse.

Heat exhaustion is caused by a combination of exercise induced heat and fluid and electrolyte loss from sweating. Signs of heat exhuastion include cool, moist, pale or flushed skin; heavy sweating; headache; nausea; dizziness; weakness; and exhaustion. To help someone with these symptoms:

  • Move the person to a cooler place. Remove or loosen tight clothing. Spray him or her with water to apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If the person is conscious, give small amounts of cool water or a sports drink with electrolytes to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in his or her condition.
  • If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number.

Heat stroke (also known as sunstroke) is a life-threatening condition in which a person’s temperature control system stops working and the body is unable to cool itself.

  • Signs of heat stroke include those of heat exhaustion and hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; change or loss of consciousness; seizures; vomiting; and high body temperature.
  • Heat stroke is life-threatening. Call 9-1-1 or the local emergency number immediately.
  • Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. If unable to immerse them, continue rapid cooling by applying bags of ice or cold packs wrapped in a cloth to the wrists, ankles, groin, neck and armpits, spraying with water and/or fanning.

You can also learn how to prevent and respond to heat-related and other emergencies by taking a First Aid/CPR/AED course. Call us at (404) 876-3302 or visit redcross.org/training to register.

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