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Coaches’ and Parents’ Guide to Heat Issues in Children

  • Signs of Dehydration include dry mouth, thirst, being irritable or cranky, headache, dizziness, cramps, excessive fatigue, not running/playing as fast as normal, seeming bored or disinterested. Treat by moving to shaded or air-conditioned area and give fluids to drink. Contact his/her parent.
  • Signs of Heat Cramps (mild heat illness) include intense pain no associated with pulling or straining a muscle and persistent muscle contractions that continue during and after exercise. Treat by giving sports drink to help replace fluid and sodium losses, light stretching, relaxation and massage of the cramped muscles. Contact his/her parent.
  • Signs of Heat Exhaustion (moderate heat illness that occurs when child continues to play after suffering from effects of heat, like dehydration) include child finds it hard or impossible to keep playing, dehydration, loss of coordination, dizziness or fainting, profuse sweating or pale skin, headache, nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, stomach cramps or persistent muscle cramps. Treat by moving child to shaded or air-conditioned area, remove any extra clothing or equipment, cool with cold water, fans or cold towels (replace towels frequently), have the child lie comfortably with legs raised above heart level, drink chilled water or sports drink (if child is not nauseated or vomiting). Contact his/her parent. The child’s condition should improve rapidly, but if there is little or no improvement, take child for emergency medical treatment.
  • Signs of Heat Stroke (severe heat illness that occurs when the body creates more heat than it can release due to the strain of exercising in the heat) include increase in core body temperature (usually above 104°) when the child falls ill, and central nervous system dysfunction, such as altered consciousness, seizures, confusion, emotional instability, irrational behavior or decreased mental acuity. Other possible indicators include nausea, vomiting or diarrhea, headache, dizziness, weakness, hot and wet or dry skin, increased heart rate, decreased blood pressure or fast breathing, dehydration or combativeness.

If there are no on-site medical personnel: Treat by calling emergency medical services for immediate transport to the nearest medical facility. Begin cooling the child while waiting for and during transport.

If there are on-site medical personnel: Treat by calling emergency medical transport to the nearest emergency medical facility. Locate on-site medical personnel immediately. Remove extra clothing or equipment. Begin aggressive whole-body cooling by immersing child in a tub of cold water. If a tub is not available, use alternative cooling methods such as cold water, fans, ice or cold towels (replaced frequently), placed over as much of the body as possible.

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