What parents need to know

It's incredibly hot outside. Should kids be playing outdoor sports. (Photo: Getty; design by Quinn Lemmers)

It’s incredibly hot outside. Should kids be playing outdoor sports. (Photo: Getty; design by Quinn Lemmers)

Late July weather often causes high temperatures across the U.S., but heat waves in certain areas of the country this summer are making it particularly challenging to stay cool. This week the National Weather Service issued excessive heat warnings across parts of Arizona, Southern California, Nevada, Utah and Florida. And the Earth has seen its hottest days on record repeatedly this summer. There are even reports of people in Arizona suffering burns after falling and landing on the ground.

But kids’ sports are continuing this summer despite the heat, and many middle school and high school sports teams will start practice soon. With that, it’s understandable for parents to be nervous. Is it OK for kids to be out running around in this heat? What about if they need to wear heavy equipment, like pads? Doctors break it down.

How concerned about extreme heat should parents be?

It depends. “There’s heat and then there’s heat,” Dr. Lewis Nelson, chair of emergency medicine at Rutgers New Jersey Medical School, tells Yahoo Life. “If it’s a normal summer day that’s not very humid, you want to watch your child to make sure they don’t have heat-related issues. But we start to get nervous as the humidity goes up or the temperature goes up. That’s when we can start to see problems.”

Dr. Tracy Zaslow, a board-certified pediatrician and pediatric sports medicine specialist at Cedars-Sinai Kerlan-Jobe Institute in Los Angeles, agrees. “Heat illness occurs because the body creates heat, especially during exercise,” she tells Yahoo Life. “Normally the body cools itself off by sweating and releasing heat through the skin. But when the temperature heats up and the humidity increases, it is much more difficult for the body to release all the heat generated during physical activity.”

All that extra heat can lead to various degrees of heat illness, she says. “With fall sports set to begin practices in the height of summer’s heat and humidity, it is important to be proactive to prevent heat illness,” Zaslow says.

Unfortunately, doctors say they expect fears about heat illness to grow over time as temperatures increase. “If temperatures continue to rise, we’ll have to have even more serious conversations about it,” Nelson says. “There are some very high-profile and unfortunate situations of kids getting sick and even dying after exercising in hot, humid weather.”

What are the serious risks for kids playing sports outside?

Doctors say the biggest concern is heat illness. “Heat illness refers to a spectrum of illness ranging from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion and severe heat stroke,” Zaslow says.

  • Heat cramps. These happen in the muscles and usually impact the legs (although sometimes the arms and abdomen), Zaslow says. “Heat cramps, while not serious, can be painful and should not be ignored as they signal too much exposure to heat and exertion without enough fluids,” she says.

  • Heat exhaustion. Zaslow describes this as “a more serious form of heat illness.” Symptoms can include fatigue, weakness, headache, nausea, vomiting, rapid breathing and irritability, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). “If your child demonstrates these symptoms, you should call your doctor for further advice,” Zaslow says. “But, in the meantime, you can help your child to a cool, shady area, remove or loosen clothing, place your child in a cool — not ice-cold — bath and encourage your child to drink fluids.”

  • Heat stroke. “Heat stroke is the most severe form of heat illness and is considered a medical emergency,” Zaslow says. “When heat stroke occurs, the body is unable to regulate its own temperature and body temperatures can climb to 106 degrees, leading to brain damage, and if left untreated, death,” Zaslow says. Symptoms of heat stroke per the CDC include flushed hot skin, elevated temperature, severe headache, weakness, fatigue, dizziness, confusion, seizure, appearing “out of it” or passing out. “If your child demonstrates any of the symptoms of heat stroke after exercising in hot temperatures, contact emergency services immediately,” Zaslow says.

Worth noting: According to the National Federation of High Schools (NFHS), exertional heat stroke is the leading cause of preventable death in high school athletes. “It’s uncommon for children to die of heat stroke, but if it’s your kid …,” Nelson says. “It should never occur.”

What symptoms should parents look out for?

The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommends that parents be on the lookout for the following symptoms of heat illness:

  • Feeling faint

  • Extreme tiredness (e.g., unusually sleepy, drowsy or hard to arouse)

  • Headache

  • Fever

  • Intense thirst

  • Not urinating for many hours

  • Nausea

  • Vomiting

  • Breathing faster or deeper than normal

  • Skin numbness or tingling

  • Muscle aches

  • Muscle spasms

How to protect kids playing sports in the heat

Doctors say there are a few things you can do to protect kids playing sports in the heat.

  • Keep them well hydrated. “Make sure your athletes are drinking fluids regularly before, during and after activity,” Zaslow says. She suggests giving kids water if they’re exercising for less than an hour, and introducing sports drinks if they’re exercising for more than an hour to replace sodium lost when they sweat.

  • Give them time to adapt. If your child will be wearing pads, Zaslow recommends having them gradually increase activity outside while wearing their equipment. “Activity increases should be made over a period of weeks, not days, as young athletes take more than a few weeks to gain appropriate conditioning,” she says.

  • Add in breaks, if you can. In hot temperatures, rest breaks in shady spots are important, Nelson says.

  • Balance outdoor time with indoor time. If your child has a practice in the heat, encourage them to rest in the air conditioning or shade afterward. “Ensure there is enough rest and recovery,” Zaslow says.

  • Make sure coaches are mindful of heat illness. “Coaches should be aware of and monitoring kids for signs of heat illness and heat exhaustion,” Nelson says. They should also have breaks built in every half hour or so, along with access to shade and cooling stations.

How parents can stay safe while watching their kids play

Doctors recommend that parents follow a lot of the same advice for reducing the risk of heat illness as they do for their athletes. That includes staying well hydrated, doing your best to find shade, and cooling off in air conditioning or shade after watching your child play.

It’s also a good idea to wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothes, and steer clear of very sugary or alcoholic drinks, the CDC says. “Be aware of the signs of heat illness and take action if you or someone around you has them,” Nelson says. “It’s important.”

Wellness, parenting, body image and more: Get to know the who behind the hoo with Yahoo Life’s newsletter. Sign up here.

Previous post Coca-Cola (KO) Beats on Q2 Earnings & Revenues, Raises View
Next post Mick Jagger Turns 80! Loved Ones Celebrate the Rolling Stones Frontman on His Birthday