Getting your child involved in sports can be great for their health and happiness. Not only do they have the opportunity to develop lifelong friendships and achieve success doing something they enjoy, but they can also get the exercise they need to stay fit.
However, sports can also be dangerous for your child. The high level of activity on hot days can put them at risk for heat illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or even heatstroke. Your child can get so wrapped up in the competitive excitement, they can stop paying attention to the warning signs their body is giving. They stop noticing or deliberately ignore these signs to keep participating in the game. In these cases, you, as the parent, must monitor them for these signs of overheating.
An elevated body temperature is a clear sign that your child’s body isn’t getting rid of all the heat it’s generating. If you have a temporal thermometer, it’s not a bad idea to toss it in with your other gameday gear. Then you can quickly and discreetly take their temperature when they’re on a break.
You know how much your child sweats on an average day. If it looks like they’re sweating a lot more than usual, it’s time to take steps to head off heat illness.
Another quick test for overheating is a cool, clammy touch. A normally sweat-soaked skin should feel warm, but if it’s cool, the body might be working hard to try to eliminate excess heat. The skin might also look pale or blotchy.
Goosebumps often go along with the cool, clammy skin your child experiences. This is part of the body’s attempt to cool itself.
It’s normal to be thirsty on a hot day, especially when you’re exerting yourself. But consuming too much water at once can be dangerous. If your child seems to have an unquenchable thirst, stop them from consuming more than a pint of water at once. Have them take a break and get more water after about 15 minutes of rest.
Kids can get irritable for many reasons during sports, but if they’re being sensitive and cross even when things are going their way, it might be a sign that they are overheating.
Muscle cramps are always a risk when kids are competing at a high level, but if kids are conditioning and stretching adequately before competing, these should be fairly rare. If your child develops cramps during what seems like regular activity for them, this could be a sign of overheating.
If your child starts to feel dizzy or if they lose strength, they are moving into the more serious phases of heat exhaustion.
Your child might also complain of a headache, or they might not report it for fear that they will seem weak in front of teammates. Pay attention to signs your child is hiding their pain.
Nausea and vomiting are severe signs of heat illness. Your child should never exert themselves to the point that they are nauseous and vomiting.
Your child might not bring up nausea so pay attention if they refuse their typical snacks or water at breaks on the sideline.
A child who passes out from the heat should be given emergency attention. Try to cool down their body temperature by applying cool, wet rags or even ice packs to their body. When they wake up, offer cool water. Call 9-1-1 or take them for urgent medical care.
If you want your child’s sports to stay a healthy activity, take steps to help them keep cool on the sideline. Provide them with shade and cool water. Make sure everyone knows to drink regularly. A steady supply of smaller amounts of water is more effective than lots of water at once.
You should also consider getting a portable evaporative cooler. These can help keep kids cool on the sidelines when they’re not competing directly. Unlike a fan, which just moves hot air around, an evaporative cooler creates cool air that helps kids shed excess heat fast so they can compete at the level they want without overheating.