Heat Illness Prevention

Heat illness is one possible and very dangerous sports injury during the summer months. During the summer months, a lot of time is spent outdoors. Some of that time is bound to be playing sports.

For most recreational athletes, summer is the prime time to get back into that sports activity that was neglected during the winter months. Cycling, tennis, golf, softball, soccer...you name it, most sports are better in the summer time.

With the summer heat comes an increased need to keep your body healthy and avoid the pitfalls of being out in the sun. Here are just a few tips to help you beat the heat, prevent heat illness, and stay off the sidelines.

Water Water, Who Needs Water?

Water in the summer is usually thought of in the pool, or at the beach...mayb even running through the hose in the backyard. Drinking water is the most important tip to help beat the heat during summer sports activities. Proper hydration is extremely important for the health of your muscles, and to keep yourself in top form. It is also the first line of defense against heat illness.
While hydration is important year round, during the summer months when you are more likely to sweat a lot more, it is vital to make sure that you are drinking enough fluids.
Make sure that you drink several glasses of water a day, even on days when you are not participating in your activity. If you know that you are going to be playing out in the sun for several hours, increase your fluid intake the night before, and continue to drink up to the event. Then, take in small amounts of water throughout your game or practice.

It helps to avoid caffinated beverages prior to activity. Sports drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade are great to help replenish electrolytes after activity, but just plain water is the most important both prior to and during your outside adventures.

Accomodate to the Heat

Obviously, if you haven't been out in the sun and heat much, your body isn't going to be used to it. You are much more susceptible to heat illness when you aren't used to the climate. Start out slow and gradually increase your outside activities. If you can, plan your games and events in the early or late hours, when the sun is not at its hottest. Activities between 10:00 am and 4:00 pm are going to have the most heat illness problems.


Suncreen, especially for those all day events, is important, not only for athletes, but for spectators as well. Do yourself a favor and keep your skin healthy. Avoid getting burned and put on a sunscreen of SPF 15-45, depending on your type of skin. Don't forget to re-apply throughout the day, especially if you are sweating a lot, or if you are in the water.

Know The Signs

There are several signs of heat illness that you should be aware of. The first sign that you may be dehydrated or starting to suffer from the heat is muscle cramps. This is especially true if you are playing a sport. You may suffer cramps in the calf, hamstrings, feet, or hands.

Cramping is the body's way of telling you that you haven't had enough to drink. As you sweat away your fluids, the balance of electrolytes and water in the muscles is skewed, and your muscles start to contract involuntarily.

You can eat all the bananas you want, but the primary problem is that you haven't had enough water. Once you start cramping, you should stop playing for the day, get cooled off, and start replenishing those fluids.

If you are a very salty sweater, you may need to alter your salt intake. This doesn't mean breaking out salt tablets, it simply means eating a small bag of chips, or lightly salting your food regularly. This is only adviseable when you are properly hydrating and still having problems with muscle cramping.
Dizziness, nausea, weakness, and fatigue are also signs of beginning heat illness. These signs often point towards heat exhaustion. Heat exhaustion is a fluid problem as well.
The body looses fluid due to sweating, and the total volume of fluid in the body is depleted enough to prevent normal function. Blood pressure may drop due to decreased volume, and this causes many of these symptoms.

If you feel any of these things, it is imperative that you get somewhere cool, rest, and drink lots of water. You need to bring your fluid level back up in order to return to normal. Stop your outdoor activity, and get inside where it is cool...it will only get worse if you don't.

Safe Summer Fun

Summer is a great time to enjoy outdoor sports and activities. Make sure you stay hydrated, wear that sunscreen, and keep yourself off the sidelines by preventing heat illness.

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