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Heat Illness Prevention: How to Help Keep Young Athletes Safe

With the kids back in school and participating in fall sports, marching band and other outdoor activities, it’s important to remember that in many regions of the country, it’s not sweater weather yet. As a result, there is still a risk for heat illness, which can be serious but preventable.  

Dr. Sarah-Anne Schumann, UnitedHealthcare chief medical officer for North Texas and Oklahoma, warns that exercise combined with hot weather are the main causes of both heat exhaustion and the more serious condition, heat stroke, which can even result in death.   

When the heat index and temperatures are high, Dr. Schumann says it’s best to stay indoors with air-conditioning. If that’s not possible, she has these tips to help reduce the risk of heat illness:

  1. Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water and other fluids but limit caffeinated drinks and alcohol.  

  2. Wear clothing that is loose-fitting, lightweight and light colored.

  3. Take breaks from the heat and don’t overexert yourself.

  4. Avoid medication that may have a high risk for heat stroke.   

Dr. Schumann says it’s important to be aware of the symptoms of heat illness, which include: headache, dizziness, confusion, nausea or vomiting, a rapid heartbeat, muscle cramps, difficulty breathing and lack of sweating. 

To help treat heat exhaustion, she recommends drinking cool fluids, resting in a cool location and putting cool towels on your skin.  If conditions worsen, seek medical help immediately.