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Help Active Kids Beat the Heat

Help Active Kids Beat the Heat: Main Image
Kids should drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise
If your child is participating in end-of-summer or pre-season sports, keep in mind these common sense precautions to keep kids safe in the heat.

In their most recent policy statement, "Climatic Heat Stress and Exercising Children and Adolescents," the American Academy of Pediatrics revealed that "contrary to previous thinking, youth do not have less effective thermoregulatory ability, insufficient cardiovascular capacity, or lower physical exertion tolerance compared with adults during exercise in the heat when adequate hydration is maintained."

Still, children and teens exercising hard or long in high heat need to use caution. The new policy statement points out that heat-related illness in kids is the result of a number of known risk factors, including:

  • Lack of recovery time between workouts
  • Closely scheduled same-day training sessions ("double days")
  • Wearing clothing or protective gear that results in over-heating
  • The presence of a chronic health condition in a child that reduces heat tolerance, including diabetes, obesity, juvenile hyperthyroidism (Graves' disease), cystic fibrosis, and sickle cell anemia
  • Using medications that can affect hydration, such as those used to treat attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (dopamine-reuptake inhibitors) and asthma, gastritis, ulcerative colitis, cystitis, and insomnia (anticholinergic drugs)

If your child has a chronic health condition or is taking medication, check with your family doctor or pediatrician about how this might affect his or her ability to exercise in the heat.

Working around hot weather

If you have young athletes in your house, take steps to ensure they stay safe when exercising in the heat:

  • Ensure coaches and other adults on-site have had training for safely working with young athletes in the heat.
  • Verify that trained adults are available on-site during practice and games to treat heat illness.
  • Educate kids on how to gradually work up to physical activity in the heat and on the signs of heat exhaustion.
  • Offer time for kids to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise. Educate them on the appropriate rate of hydration for their size.
  • Modify activities to accommodate each child's unique needs and reschedule practice and games to cooler times.
  • Let kids rest at least two hours between workouts or matches and games in hot weather.
  • Ensure your child's coach has an emergency action plan to deal with heat-related illnesses.
  • Limit children's participation if they have had a recent illness.
Suzanne Dixon, MPH, MS, RD, an author, speaker, and internationally recognized expert in chronic disease prevention, epidemiology, and nutrition, has taught medical, nursing, public health, and alternative medicine coursework. She has delivered over 150 invited lectures to health professionals and consumers and is the creator of a nutrition website acclaimed by the New York Times and Time magazine. Suzanne received her training in epidemiology and nutrition at the University of Michigan, School of Public Health at Ann Arbor.
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