Football season is on, schools are ramping back up and summer heat is far from finished in the capital region and other parts of California.
So when is it safe to play and practice outside? And how do you evaluate your child’s risk of heat illness amid the latest heat wave?
Dr. Lena van der List, a pediatrician at the UC Davis Children’s Hospital in Sacramento, said gauging a child’s risk for heat illness can be tricky but there are some clear signs to look for.
Keep an eye on the heat index
The first thing that parents and coaches should keep an eye on is the heat index, which is different than the temperature on your phone’s weather app. Heat index is what the temperature feels like when it’s combined with relative humidity. So while it might be 95 degrees, it actually feels hotter to the human body.
A heat index over 90 degrees can pose a risk to most people, especially children and teens, van der List said.
The next thing to keep in mind, van der List said, is how acclimatized your child is to hot weather.
“We do know there a big correlation between acclimatized athletes who are used to being in heat and their risk of heat illness,” she said.
Even with acclimation, trouble can occur. That was the case last week when football practice was halted at Capital Christian High School’s football practice when a player collapsed on the field and lost his pulse.
Coaches and a firefighter at practice were able to initiate CPR and other resusciatative measures on lineman Trevor Loveall after he fell during drills at Lincoln High School on Saturday.
Loveall is recovering after being hospitalized in the intensive care unit at Sutter Roseville Medical Center, school officials said.
Make sure kids are acclimated, hydrated
It’s a bad idea to have kids practice outside in full football padding on a hot day, especially if they’re not used to that level of exertion, she said.
If your child is going to participate in an outdoor sports practice, the importance of hydration cannot be overstated, van der List said.
Hydration breaks should be taken every 20 minutes or so. It’s not enough to rely on children to take water breaks as needed, she said. Coaches and parents need to set a schedule and make sure athletes are taking enough time to hydrate.
If heat illness begins to develop, some early signs are cramping in the lower extremities. If this happens, van der List explained, it means the child needs to take a break in the shade and hydrate.
If more severe symptoms such as headaches and nausea arise, then it’s time for that player to sit out for the rest of practice, she said.
“Don’t let it get to this point,” she said.
Risk of shock if signs ignored
Lastly, if heat stroke sets in and a child can no longer regulate their internal body temperature, they can go into shock and even lose consciousness.
“That’s a true emergency,” van der List said.
In that case, douse the player in cool rags or an ice bath and call 911.