Stay cool if you can

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Smoldering, sweltering, sultry and sweaty are just a few of the adjectives that I can think of to describe the recent rise in temperature. Area residents are being warned to take precautions during this latest heat wave, which is expected to last into next week.

Of immediate concern are athletes who began practice for fall sports this week. From what we hear, coaches are watching the weather forecasts, adjusting practices around the hottest parts of the day and encouraging their players to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water. In response to the hotter-than-normal temperatures, which could set a record or two this week, the Missouri State High School Activities Association (MSHSAA) has issued a heat stress and athletic participation advisory. The measures outlined in the document are ones all coaches should be following and several of the precautions are one all area residents should follow.

First of all, athletes should be allowed to gradually get acclimated to hot weather. An athlete must exercise in the heat to get used to it, but graduated physical conditioning is recommended for the first 7 to 10 days. Signs of final stages of acclimatization to heat are marked by increased sweating and reduced salt concentration in the sweat.

Secondly, water replacement is the most important safeguard to preventing heat-related illness. Water needs to be on the field and readily available in unlimited quantities to athletes at all times. During water breaks, athletes should rest in a shaded area. It is also suggested that coaches allow athletes to take two or three small breaks every hour rather than one longer break.

An athlete's weight should also be monitored during workout sessions in extreme heat. A 3 percent weight loss through sweating is safe, but weight loss over that is dangerous.

Athletes should also be warned to avoid using any products that contain ephedra. According to MSHSAA, ephedra has been associated with two heat stroke deaths in athletes.

As temperatures continue to hover near 100 degrees, athletes and nonathletes and residents of all ages must be aware of the dangers of hot weather. Get used to the heat before exercising in it, stay hydrated, lower exercise intensity, and if you don't have to be outside during the heat of the day, stay inside where it's cool.

Excessive weight loss, weakness, fatigue, fainting, reduced sweating, muscle cramps, vomiting and dizziness are all signs of varying levels of heat-related illness. Be smart and stay safe.