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Avoid fall heat stress during school activities
MISSISSIPPI STATE -- Outdoor physical activities in late summer and early fall can be challenging or even deadly if Mississippians are not careful to avoid heat illnesses, and children may be at the most risk.
More than 300 people die annually from heat-related illnesses, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Many of the people who end up in emergency rooms for heat illnesses and dehydration are children.
Sharon Allen Haynes, area nutrition agent in Bolivar County, said adults should make sure children have plenty of water in their systems before, during and after outdoor activities. Fall athletes and marching band members may encounter heat stress more often, but even very young children are at risk.
"Adults may not realize how hot children are because we are not affected by the heat in the same way," Haynes said. "The smaller the child, the faster he or she will absorb heat, and they do not benefit from sweating as much as adults do."
Haynes said anyone taking part in activities during the heat of the day should be drinking plenty of water or sports drinks.
"Water is always an appropriate fluid replacement, but sometimes people will drink more of the flavored sports drinks," Haynes said. "Colas are typically high in sugars and caffeine, which makes them take longer to absorb into the body, may cause cramping and will increase urine output."
Haynes recommended several snack foods such as bananas, raisins and granola bars to help physical performance in hot weather. Take frequent breaks for fluids rather than waiting longer and drinking larger amounts. People may not feel thirsty until it is too late.
Paul Mock, head athletic trainer for Mississippi State University, encourages people to build up a tolerance for the heat in the weeks preceding outdoor activities. Whenever possible, choose the cooler times of the day for physical exertion, and wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing. The subtle symptoms associated with heat illness are often overlooked, resulting in more serious problems for affected athletes.
"Some of the signs that a person is having a problem include disorientation, weakness, sluggishness and a decrease in mental alertness," Mock said. "Stress can increase the risk of heat exhaustion. Some medications, such as ibuprofen and aspirin, also can increase the risk."
Mock said drinking ample fluids will help to maintain an individual's health and athletic performance. Dark urine is a sign that a person is not drinking enough fluids.
"The first indicators of dehydration are thirst, irritability and general discomfort," Mock said. "Headache, cramps, chills, vomiting, nausea, head or neck heat sensations, and decreased performance may occur if the dehydration progresses."
Remember that dehydration is easier to prevent than it is to treat.
Contact: Sharon Allen Haynes, (662) 843-8371