Playing in the Heat

When the weather is warm and sunny, it’s great to get outdoors. Especially in summer, kids and adults participate in outdoor sports more frequently.

High temperatures and high humidity can be particularly dangerous. Parents and coaches should be careful about children playing too strenuously in such conditions. Children are more vulnerable to such heat-related illnesses as dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke because their bodies are less efficient at cooling.

Safety Tips

Use these simple precautions to avoid heat-related illnesses:

  • Be sure you and your children drink lots of water throughout the day before you become thirsty.
  • Supervise children playing or exercising in the heat and watch for signs of heat distress.
  • Make sure children take frequent breaks to rest and cool down.
  • If possible, exercise or play in a shady area.
  • Wear loose-fitting, lightweight clothing that breathes.
  • Be especially cautious if it is very humid. Excessive humidity makes it harder for the body to cool itself through sweating. Limit the duration of practices and provide frequent breaks.
  • If symptoms of heat exhaustion appear, stop the activity right away, move to a cool spot and take lots of water.
  • If heat stroke is apparent, go to the emergency room right away.
  • Become familiar with symptoms of dehydration, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

Sports Drinks

In many cases, drinking plenty of water during an activity on a hot day will likely do the job of preventing heat illness. For long activities in the heat, sports drinks are helpful in replenishing not only water, but electrolytes and sugar as well.

“Water is fine for most of the activities that are an hour or less,” says Richard A. Saladino, MD, chief of Pediatric Emergency Medicine, UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh.

“Kids tend to eat and drink a lot during the day anyway, but with prolonged activity in the heat – even playing at the pool all day – it is important to replace both water and electrolytes. Sports drinks are an effective way to do that.”