New Guidelines Can Help Prevent Heat Illness in Young Athletes

Aug 10, 2011, 3:00 PM, Posted by

The American Academy of Pediatrics has issued a revised policy statement, “Climatic Heat Stress and Exercising Children and Adolescents,” in the September 2011 issue of Pediatrics on comprehensive strategies for youth sports programs to safeguard against heat illness.

The recommendations include:

  • Providing risk-reduction training for coaches, trainers and other adults.
  • Ensuring trained staff are available on-site to monitor for and promptly treat heat illness.
  • Educating children about preparing for the heat to improve safety and reduce the risk for heat illness.
  • Allowing children to gradually adapt to physical activity in the heat.
  • Offering time for and encouraging sufficient fluid intake before, during and after exercise.
  • Modifying activity as needed given the heat and limitations of individual athletes. Practices and games may need to be canceled or rescheduled to cooler times.
  • Developing and having in place an emergency action plan.

The previous AAP policy, issued in 2000, suggested that children were less able to tolerate and adapt to heat stress compared to adults, but current research that shows children and adults have similar physiological responses when exercising under the same conditions. The new statement, unlike the previous one, does not give precise rules about whether games or practices should be canceled if temperatures reach a certain level to give staff the opportunity to tailor decisions for each child, such as a player who is overweight, or one who was recently ill both of which could exacerbate a body’s reaction to high temperatures during exercise.

This commentary originally appeared on the RWJF New Public Health blog.