Playing It Cool

Doctors provide new guidelines for summer sports safety for kids. Kids drink sports drinks.

August 12, 2011

New guidelines provide young athletes with health tips for playing safely in the sun.

The final days of summer are going to be especially sweet this year. New guidelines from the American Academy of Pediatrics, a medical association made up of children’s doctors, give young athletes the okay to play sports in heat and humidity—as long as they follow some important rules.

The guidelines, released Monday, offer practical information and advice on summer health and safety to prevent heat-related illnesses and injuries. “The more educated parents, athletes and staff are about risks associated with heat illness, the more likely they will think twice before allowing a competitive culture to overtake sound sensibilities,” said Dr. Cynthia Devore. She is co-author of the new guidelines and a Rochester, New York, physician.

Sweltering Summer Sports

Between 2001 and 2009, more than 3,000 U.S. children under the age of 20 received emergency-room treatment for heat-related illness due to sports or exercise in high heat. Certain sports like football are especially dangerous because of players’ uniforms and heavy padding. A school’s football season often begins in late summer when temperatures are still high, so there is a greater risk for heat stroke and exhaustion.

The new guidelines do not give temperature cutoffs for when to stop playing sports. But they focus on safety as being most important. The doctors’ report recommends that every young athlete be evaluated to play in the heat. With solid training, plenty of drinking water, time-outs and emergency treatment available on the sidelines, young athletes can play even in high heat and humidity—within reason.

Guidelines for the Sidelines

Whether you’re on the field or in the swimming pool, it’s important to follow the new guidelines for the last weeks of summer—and whenever it’s very hot and humid... Here’s additional advice from the American Academy of Pediatrics:

• Make sure staff trained in heat safety and treatment is available at all times.

• Allow yourself time to slowly get used to the heat when playing sports.

• Hydrate! Drink anywhere from 3 to 6 cups of water an hour.

• Look out for your teammates. If someone seems to be struggling or feeling dizzy, get help right away.

• Give yourself a break. Take at least one rest period for every two hours of physical activity.

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