Young Athletes And Heat Acclimatization awareness is important for parents. It is hard to have enough people concerned about young athletes’ health and safety. Coaches may overlook something. Stay alert.
With your young athletes and heat acclimatization, I am referring to the change in seasons. We are now in the heat of summer and seem destined to be living with higher temperatures for the entire season.
Yes, we are accustomed to hot summers. That is the norm for those of us who call central Texas home. However, we are having an especially hot summer. This extreme weather is just one of the things we have to learn to live with.
We are hotter than normal. As well we are dryer than usual.
We are in extreme drought conditions. However, the humidity moves in often, giving us hot and humid weather. So, in one week the climate changes for young athletes. The additional humidity makes for the “feel like temperatures that can add 2 or more degrees to an already hot total.
These are the conditions that cause us to be concerned about the safety of our young athletes while they are enjoying participating in organized sports.
Young athletes need a couple of weeks to acclimate and have their bodies react in a safe manner when they are exerting energy in their chosen sport. When the humidity comes and goes as it does for us this year, they may not have 14 days to get accustomed to the humidity.
The adjustment to dry heat seems to be somewhat easier. Let’s look at some of the risks. First, what is the better way to become conditioned for the demand of the sport physically? Then how is the best way to learn to handle the heat?
Your Skin’s Part In Acculmating Young Athlete’s Bodies
Your skin acts like a body sock. It keeps your feet and legs and arms and hands protected. Skin is a barrier to germs and infections and viruses. It is the only permanent protection your body has.
Your body is the organ that comes into contact with the rest of the world. Your skin holds body fluids in, preventing dehydration and helping keep harmful microbes out.
Their skin is your young athletes largest organ. Without it, they would get infections. Your skin is full of nerve endings that alert you to feel things like heat, cold, and pain.
When they can’t feel these things, there could be serious bodily injury and they would not even know it!
Because their skin plays such an important role in protecting your young athletes’ bodies, it becomes important to keep it as healthy as you can.
Healthy skin is what they have to help them keep from getting sick. Skin works to prevent damage to their bones, muscles, as well as internal organs.
Skin is actually your body’s largest organ by size. Your skin enables your body temperature to stay near the 98.6 degrees that keeps you healthy.
By keeping the internal body at a healthy and even temperature, the internal organs work more efficently. If you get too hot, blood vessels near the surface of the skin, called capillaries, enlarge to let the warm blood cool down.
This is why you need to keep skin safe from the sun. Sunburn can turn a portion of your skin useless for the assigned job of regulating body temperature.
When you loose surface area and have less sweating area, your young athlete will have trouble cooling as is needed for the exercise for his sport. This can lead to overheating, and ups the risk for heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Wearing sun blocking clothing when out side can help protect that skin for more efficient body cooling. Sun exposure and sunburn typically happen in the hotter times of the year. This is also usually organized sports time for you young athletes.
Sunburn And Climate Change. (More Infrmation)
What Is Heat Acclimatization
Do you know what heat acclimatization is? What about heat acclimatization and how it relates to your young athletes? The more you know and share with them, the better they are prepared to meet the challenges that being an athlete requires.
Heat acclimatization is what is happening with the introduction of exercises and conditioning drills. They will start out very light and easy. Then will become more intense in smaller increments. The physical exercise will be increasing in length of time as well.
Introducing increased activity in smaller increments during the hotter time of year is the safe way to allow your young athlete to participate.
The healthy and safe way to acclimatize yourself to the heat is to increase the workload performed in a hot setting gradually over a period of 1–2 weeks.
Heat alone is dangerous enough for your young athlete. Adding humidity is really upping the risk. When the kids get sick and don’t feel up to par, they will not be able to perform as well in practice or actual competition.
Most coaches are careful with the health of the athletes in their care.
Benefits Of Acclimatization
The CDC issues these warnings and guidelines for getting your body accustomed to the climatized.
It also issues a warning that the reset you have done to your body for the acclimatization will begin to fade in as little as a week if you don’t stay with the conditioning program. So be your young athlete’s safety guide, and stay alert. Talk to your young athlete about the need to stay with a program.
• With the proper time and increasing energy use your youngster will build better stamina. This helps make the heat young athletes are exposed to cause less stran to their heart and other vital organs.
• When acclimatized, young athletes will find their ability to sweat improves. They will start sweating earlier in the days activity, and will sweat more. This cools their body more quickly.
When an acclimated athlete is active they need to drink more water, not less. Their bodies are working more efficiently. The higher sweat volume will require more water to be consumed
Heat risks continue to affect your young athlete, let’s look at some of the actual risks.
Young Athletes and Heat Illnesses Risks
Athletes in our US high schools have heat illness as the third leading cause of death. Many of the deaths of young athletes go underreported. Often there is a delay between the time the risk occurred and death. Fewer autopsies are done on young athletes.
Things are changing, and reporting will soon be more accurate. There is always a lapse between changes and the correct results of these cases.
Meanwhile, you can improve your ability to observe what is happening and realize there is a problem developing. As you become more aware of the risks and results you can help your young athletes become aware of what they can do to help themselves.
Dehydration puts young athletes at significant risk for heat illness. If a young athlete becomes dehydrated in a hot and humid climate, their risk is rising. If this youngster is obese or is not physically fit, their risk rises.
Is this athlete not acclimatized, or is there is a previous history of heat stroke?
Has this young athlete not had enough sleep and rest? This is an important part of creating a healthy athlete, proper sleep, and rest time.
What about medications, especially diuretics or antidepressants? Has the athlete had sweat gland dysfunction? Is there an upper respiratory or gastrointestinal illness?
Many of these risk factors can be addressed with education and awareness of the parents and the young athletes at risk.
Keeping Young Athletes Hydrated In The Heat
Parents of young athletes, even the athletes themselves often inquire about how to hydrate in the heat, in order to stay safe. Athletes want to know how much of what they should drink to safely perform at their best.
The scientific research is inconclusive, and even the experts disagree about how to properly replace fluids athletes lose. To stay safe and able to compete in their chosen sport is important.
E. Randy Eichner, M.D., professor emeritus of medicine at the University of Oklahoma Medical Center, shares this information that he acquired during his 14 years as a team internist for the Oklahoma Sooners football team.
The Sooners football players played and practiced in dauntingly hot conditions.
For 3 years he also served as a physician for the Hawaii Ironman, one of the longest, most demanding, as well as hottest athletic competitions in the U.S.
He suggested drinking enough water to not be thrusty. If you are actively practicing or playing drinking water and occasional sports drink along as play proceeds. Help athletes realize a safe water or fluid intake for them.
How Dehydration Affects Performance
Dr. Eichner explains:
Sweat cools. Young athletes have a built-in cooling system. This natural cooling system kicks in during vigorous or/and sustained exercise in hot conditions.
We know this cooling system as sweat. As this sweat evaporates from the skin it helps to cool the athlete’s body. In higher humidity times, the sweat may just drip off, not dry through evaporation. This will slow down the cooling effect.
When athletes sweat, this process of sweating will also dehydrate.
This sweat uses up some of their body’s water supply. Some even sweat more than they can replace by drinking fluids. So predicting how much a particular athlete will sweat, and know much fluid an athlete should replace during exercise is difficult.
Eichner further explained, “For some young athletes who exercise hard in the heat, sweat rates can exceed 1/2 gallon per hour.” While this is the rate for those who sweat heavily, it makes you realize that a quart of fluid can get lost in sweat.
Exercise in hot and humid conditions can equal 1 to 3 % of that young athlete’s body. This can affect the athlete’s performance in sports.
Dehydration can also contribute to heat illness, life-threatening overheating of the body known as exertional heat stroke. Debilitating heat cramps are also a major cause of concern.
So How Much Fluid Should A Young Athlete Drink?
The question is what’s best for an athlete to do?
How much fluid or water is it safe to drink to maintain peak performance and prevent the problems that go with dehydration?
Balance is important. Replacing fluids will prevent dehydration and improve performance. But drinking too much has some really big risks.
Dr. Eichner warns us that there is a medical emergency caused by over-drinking. Known as exertional hyponatremia, happening when young athletes drink too much plain water.
This is where some of the fluids can be sports drinks. Water is best, but adding some of the sports drinks that give the sodium these athletes need should also be considered.
How much is enough? Drink enough to satisfy your thirst. Young Athletes need to be responsible for getting the fluids they need. Taking sips after the thirst is taken care of is a good safety measure. As they mature, they often can tell when they have not had enough liquids in a day of play or practice.
Until then, help your young athlete drink fluids before game or practice time. Then after the game or practice. If your child is behaving normally and seems to feel well, they are probably getting the fluids they need.
Protecting Young Athletes From The Sun
A healthy body recovers quickly. Keep them healthy and protected from the sun.
Sunburn does not allow your young athlete to sweat or cool properly. Their skin will take as much as 2 weeks to start sweating properly again, after a sunburn.
Help them stay safe from the sun during everyday life. Remind your athlete about wearing sun-blocking hats, sunglasses, and long sleeve loose-fitting shirts.
Be safe and keep the sun off their bare heads and faces, their arms, and the trunks of their bodies. This is an important part of their skin for natural cooling to happen.
There is no benefit to drinking more water than is needed for the athlete. Sipping water along on nonpractice days or game days is better than drinking too much at one time.
Suggestions For Water Drinking For Young Athletes
Start your exercise or game time well-hydrated. Too many athletes begin slightly dehydrated when they start the exercise. This is beginning at a disadvantage.
For short games or practice times during milder weather conditions, if starting well-hydrated, your young athletes may not need to worry about drinking fluids. However, water should be readily available.
If there is a longer exercise time when it is hot and humid, young athletes will need to drink regularly. It is important to offset the ongoing sweat loss.
- 3 to 8 ounces every 20 minutes for young athletes.
- 16 to 32 ounces every hour for young adult athletes.
Help your young athlete be aware of how their body is reacting. The natural thirst will probably take care of the need to drink fluids under normal conditions.
During especially hot and humid weather and when your athlete is not feeling particularly well are when to pay attention. This is when they may need some help getting enough water.
You as parent will be more aware of how the athlete is feeling than his coach. A word to his coach can help, or just be aware. If you see problems developing for your young athlete, speak up!
Simply Pay Attention To Your Young Athlete
Just pay attention. Finally, it is very important that parents, coaches, and their healthcare providers monitor the athletes and listen to what they say.
- Fatigue beyond normal
- Muscle cramping
- Heavy Breathing
- Confusion or other signs of heat exhaustion
Better to be safe than sorry!
How Much Water Should Your Young Athlete Drink In A Day?
Drinking water is a healthy habit to maintain, not just when practicing and playing an organized sport. The healthier you start the sports season the easier it will be to get into the condition you need to be for your best performance as an athlete.
Help your young athlete develop good daily water drinking habits.
Overall health guidelines suggest that 1 oz. of water for each lb of body weight is a good goal. If your young athlete weighs 140 lbs, then 70 oz of water throughout the day is a goal. Help them learn to be thirsty for water so that the automatic thirst kicks in.
When someone does not drink enough water, they soon lose the ability to be thirsty, at least a healthy thirsty. When you bypass the water fountain too often, the habit becomes of just forgetting to drink water.
Develop Better Overall Health Habits
When I was in school, oh so long ago, I doubt I took a drink of water all day. Whatever we had at lunch was my liquid for the day. No wonder I grew up with a constipation problem.
That lead to a weight problem. Had we known about drinking water throughout the day, that may have taken care of the issue early in life.
Now we know better, and helping your young athlete have enough water throughout the day can help his overall health.
So besides the 1 oz of water for every 2 lbs of body weight, during hotter weather, or during sports when your child is more active, they will need more liquid. Water is preferred, saving a limited amount of sports drink for the times when your youngster is involved in very active sports and sweating.
With hotter weather and more strenuous activity, more fluids are needed.
Help your athlete learn to keep the balance in a healthy habit to prevent being overly subject to the heat-related stresses.
What Are Heat-Related Conditions?
Dehydration, is usually where the danger starts. Also the easiest of the heat-related conditions to control. Awareness is the key to controlling the water intake for what is lost in sweat.
Becoming dehydrated appears to be one of the most common risk factors for heat illness for your young athletes. Exercising, practicing, and competing in the heat can allow their core body temperature to rise.
This in turn causes the athlete to sweat.
A loss of 1% of your young athlete’s body weight, can allow their core temperature to rise. For every 1% lost in sweat, the increase in core temperature can be 0.15 to 0.2 degrees.
If even 6 % of body weight is lost, that can easily push the core temperature up a degree. While only one degree sounds like not so much, remember this happens on a hot, humid day while they are pushing their body heat up with exercise already.
If they can’t cool down, this can get serious quickly. Without enough fluids for their body to sweat, the core temperature will continue to rise.
Being able to identify athletes at most at risk, and monitoring closely for signs and symptoms are all important components of preventing heat illness.
Monitoring the athlete’s hydration status and early intervention may be the most important factors in preventing severe heat illness. Taking breaks often, and drinking fluids can help lower risks.
This is why your young athlete needs the protection of sun blocking clothing to keep him safe from the sun. To keep the friend’s birthday party at the pool from resulting in a sunburn that cuts down the ability to sweat!
More information on risk for young athletes.
More Reason To Be Alert For Dehydration
Remember, the human body is made up of approximately 70% water.
So, it makes sense that fluids are vital for the majority of our bodily functions. Otherwise why have so much on hand for our body to use?
From protecting your joints, maintaining organ function, transporting oxygen to cells, and maintaining your body temperature. All these functions are dependent on fluids in your body.
It also stands to reason that the body can become dehydrated fairly quickly when your young athlete sweats a lot.
When there is hot weather, and sun exposure added to a lack of fluids throughout the day? Yes, that athlete can become dehydrated.
Let’s talk about some telltale signs that your young athlete’s body is experiencing dehydration that can without correction become dangerous.
Unusual Fatigue Sets In
When your young athlete suffers from chronic dehydration, blood flow, and blood pressure drop due to a lack of water and oxygen in their blood.
That is why good healthy water drinking habits are important. Chronic ongoing dehydration of the athletes body is a set up for serious health problems, even if he is not playing a sport right now.
Since dehydration is the result of your body losing more water than you take in, tiredness is a result. Often the tiredness is accompanied by a feeling of being sleepy.
Dehydration also causes muscle and nerve dysfunction that is due to heavy sweating after exercise.
Robert Korn, MD, medical director of GoHealth Urgent Care stated:
“The defense mechanism of the body in the face of dehydration is to shut down blood supply to ‘non-vital’ organs.”
This automatic shut down will cause a young athlete to start feeling sluggish as their body is forced to operate at a slower pace.
If you begin to feel faint, make sure you are in a safe place and let a teammate or your coach or trainer know if you feel you are about to pass out.
Increase In Heart Rate
Dehydration will often cause quickly dropping electrolyte levels. This quick drop will lead to an increased heart rate and/or even heart palpitations.
As blood pressure drops, breathing and heart rate will quicken, indicating potential dehydration.
When there is not enough fluid in your blood, dehydration is the result. This will increase your young athlete’s heart rate. This lack of fluid can cause dizziness, as there is inadequate blood flow to the brain.
An elevated heart rate check can be a strong indication of dehydration severity.
(Dehydration is usually the reason many senior citizens arrive at the ER. About 70% of those using an ER arrive dehydrated as a base cause of the reason they are needing help.)
Good water drinking habits are important throughout life.
A Dry Mouth
This symptom sounds like a no-brainer, but does your young athlete have a dry mouth or a dry cough? These can be one of the first symptoms of dehydration.
When you think about it, this makes sense that without drinking enough water you would begin to feel a little dry and in need of water. Learning to drink enough water as a younger athlete will help your youngster stay able to have better digestion and give their body the fluid needed.
While a dry mouth or dry cough may not always be a sign of serious dehydration, you should definitely get yourself a nice cool drink of water if your mouth starts feeling a little dry.
Dizziness or Light-Headedness, Usually While Standing
This is a more serious symptom of severe dehydration caused by low blood pressure.
The less fluid your body has, the lower your blood pressure goes. This in turn means less blood flowing to your brain, which is what causes the dizzy and woozy feeling you may experience when severely dehydrated.
If your young athlete gets to this point, please contact a medical professional and be sure you hydrate immediately!
Talk about the symptoms and the way each should be handled. This young athlete may stay an athlete and needs to have the right words to ask for help when you are not there to intervene for him or her.
Often, coaches are not aware of a serious condition developing, and being able to explain their symptoms is important.
Yes, some young athletes tend to want to use the excuse of being sick when they just do not want to participate or put out the effort.
By having the correct words to describe what is happening, their coach can better help them with a break in activity, a water break, or a managed treatment if needed.
Your youngster is all ears and will remember the words. Help him by practicing the proper requests for help.
Very Dark Urine Is A Symptom of Dehydration
Discussing the color of their pee is not usually in young athletes’ comfort zone. However, the color of your pee lets you know if you are properly hydrated or not.
Dark-colored urine tells you that your kidneys are saving up as much water as they can to allow your body to keep functioning, This will make your pee more concentrated and much darker in color.
With severe dehydration, you may not even have any urine to examine. If that is the case, you may need to contact a medical professional. Explain to your young athlete and make sure they hydrate.
Headaches, A Sign Of Dehydration?
Were you aware that headaches are another sign of dehydration?
The lack of enough fluid in your body causes your brain to contract and shrink. This puts pressure on certain nerves and creates the painful headache you experience when dehydrated.
It is important to note that headaches are caused by a lot of different things, so they may not be the one single sign that points you to dehydration, but they are still something to keep in mind if you believe your young athlete is dehydrated.
While these are not all the symptoms that put you in and increased risk for more serious problems, this gives you a smattering of what to look for and have some idea of what is causing the condition.
Young athletes will have a more positive and enjoyable organized sports experience if there is some heat acculmatazion time. You as a parent are the advocate for your youngster.
Sami’s Take On Young Athletes And Heat Acclimatazation
When I was checking out this part of athlete training, I could not help but see in my minds eye, my now 10 year old grandson. He is getting ready for the youth football league and their season of play. Getting in playing shape will involve a lot of effort.
I would like to think that the coaches are aware of each team member and their personalities. Notice each players strengths and weaknesses. Some days this it how it is. However there are times, that make this is more difficult.
Hopefully the season will go well for coaches and players and the season will not have any heat related problems. The young athletes are motivated and want to play, and play well. They all want to be on the winning side at the end of the game.
The older my grandson gets, the more his skills build. Having the awareness skill to be able to notice when he is not feeling well during the practice is important, and also have the word skills to express any symptom that is developing.
This can alert the coaches about a need for a break. For getting some fluids down. Being able to have time to reach a point of being acclimatized is important for play in this part of the world.
They do have to increase the amount of exertion to grow their skills, and slower is better than pushing to hard too soon.
These are the reasons these young athletes need to keep their skin free of sunburn. Protecting themselves from too much sun with sun blocking shirts, sun blocking hats and sunglasses is a positive move in the right directions for their skin health and safety.
This is where you as a parent are the ones to help them learn to protect their skin. Not only does a sunburn affect their ability to cool themselves properly, but it sets them up for skin cancer. That is not what I want for my grandson. What do you want for your family?