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Heat Exhaustion and Heat Stroke in Athletes

By Elizabeth Ryan, Nurse Practitioner, CHRISTUS Point of Light Clinic

CHRISTUS Point of Light Clinic offers free sports pre-participation physicals for students in the community during their Back-to-School Bash event every summer. Sports physicals identify health concerns, provide preventive care, and offer anticipatory guidance to children and their parents. It is an excellent opportunity for healthcare providers to give sound advice about wearing seat belts, avoiding substance abuse, and discussing heat safety.

The students need to be aware of the signs and symptoms of heat-related illnesses such as muscle cramps, heavy sweating, pale/cold skin, dizziness, headache, or nausea.  If not identified and treated early, these symptoms can worsen and lead to confusion, difficulty breathing, seizures, or even death.

To prevent heat-related illness, it is important to give guidance regarding acclimating to the heat which includes spending time outdoors prior to the beginning of camp and limiting frequency and length of practice.  The students are encouraged to increase water consumption prior to the beginning of training and to wear loose and lightweight clothes.  If they feel overheated, the students should be instructed that they need to tell an adult, move into the shade, and rehydrate with an electrolyte replacement beverage (sugar-free).  Not only should athletes take care of themselves, but they should also be aware of symptoms in their teammates as well.

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