Heat-related illness no joking matter

Wednesday, August 6, 2014
With area summer sports camps in full swing, it is important for the participants to stay hydrated. Pictured, from left, are Mighty Mites participants Zane McCracken, Daven Madrid and Kristopher Cloud as they take a water break to stay hydrated during a summer youth football camp. Jared Lankford sports@cassville-democrat.com

Most people have done it before: worked outside, got a little queasy, but pushed through the discomfort to finish the task at hand.

Such symptoms are warning signs that a person is moving from dehydration to heat exhaustion.

"We follow MSHSAA's heat guidelines to the letter," said Lance Parnell, Cassville football coach. "We are limited to a three-hour practice with a mandatory one-hour break, and then we can have a one-hour walk-through."

According to Cox Athletic Training Coordinator Greg Gilmore, there are three categories of dehydration that include: Heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

"A person doesn't have to start at one stage and progress to the others," said Gilmore. "You could jump straight to heat stroke. It is important for anyone who has to work outside in the heat to make preparations.

"You can't rely on you sense of thirst to tell if you need more water," Gilmore said.

Each category of dehydration has its own warning signs:

* Heat cramps: Warning signs include muscle cramping, a sick feeling to one's stomach and joint pain. Individuals who suffer from this condition should stop whatever activity they are involved in, stretch and massage the area and drink cold fluids.

* Heat exhaustion: Warning signs include a body temperature of up to 102 degrees, pale complexion, chills and loss of appetite. It is important to note that these conditions are not life threatening at this stage but must be dealt with immediately to prevent further progression. A person suffering from these symptoms needs to stop and remove pads or socially acceptable clothing, get to a cool place and drink liquids. If the condition is extreme enough, medical attention may be needed.

* Heat stroke: A heat stroke is deemed a medical emergency. Its symptoms include body temperatures in excess of 104 degrees, loss of appetite, loss of consciousness.

"A person who reaches the stroke stage is in grave danger," said Gilmore. "At a body temperature of 105 degrees, brain damage starts to occur. An

individual suffering from heat stroke must be cooled immediately to get the body's core temperature down. Medical attention is needed."

Gilmore does have some practical advice to beat the heat.

* Keep a cool wet cloth, ice pack or cool pack near to help cool down.

* Start exercise routines or activities earlier in the day.

* Get plenty of rest, allowing the body a chance to recover from the heat.

* Drink lots of fluids. Staying hydrated is key.

"In my opinion, based on observation, once a person suffers a heat related illness they are generally more likely to have it happen again," Gilmore said.

However, all is not lost.

"Heat-related illnesses are totally preventable," Gilmore said. "The key is for a person to recognize the warning signs and to take preventive measures."

According to Parnell, the football practices have built in water breaks and the players have access to drinks during the entire session.

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