Heat Related Illnesses in Young Athletes

by | Aug 8, 2011 | News

E. Brantley Burns, M.D.

There is no doubt about it! It’s HOT!  In these are the dog days of summer, many young athletes are gearing up for school and team sports so parents and coaches need to know the signs of heat related illnesses.
Heat cramps. These can be painful with muscle spasms and cramps in the legs, abdomen and arms.  Make sure your athlete is well hydrated before, after, and during practice.  If there is a very strenuous or intense session coming up, start hydrating the day before.  If cramps do occur, stop, rest, and drink water and/or electrolyte replacement products.  Products that contain caffeine should be avoided as they can contribute to dehydration.

Heat Exhaustion. This occurs when the body becomes overheated. Symptoms include heavy sweating, muscle cramps, overwhelming tiredness, weakness, dizziness, fainting, headaches, nausea and/or vomiting. If any of these symptoms occur, the athlete must stop physical activity and immediately get to a cool place and drink water or electrolyte replacement products.
Heat Stroke. This is the most serious and possibly life threatening heat illness.  Heat Stroke occurs when the body temperature increases too quickly and the body is unable to cool itself off.  Body temperatures can rise as high as 106 degrees in just 10-15 minutes. Get immediate medical attention for your athlete if they become confused, dizzy and/or nauseous, start to vomit, have red, hot or dry skin, lose consciousness, or have an unusually rapid, strong pulse or throbbing headache.
If you have any questions about symptoms related to a heat related illness, or if you are experiencing a heat related illness, you should consult with your physician.
The CDC offers a free course for parents and coaches to understand heat-related illnesses.
CDC Heat Related Illnesses Sheet

E. Brantley Burns, MD
Dr. Burns is an avid runner, and also writes articles for the Knoxville Track Club.