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Safety first at summer sports camps

Summer is a great time for young athletes to hone their skills at a variety of sports camps. The camaraderie and exercise can be fun and simultaneously educational. The summer sun and heat, however, can make children susceptible to health concerns such as dehydration, sunstroke and heatstroke.

Let’s review some precautionary steps parents can take to protect their children when engaged in summer sports camps.

Allow time for the body to get acclimated.

The best defense against heat-related illnesses is to allow the body to gradually get used to the heat, which helps the body be able to tolerate high temperatures.

One to two weeks before children attend a summer sports camp, they should gradually increase the duration and intensity of their outdoor exercise or activity. This especially is important for children and teens who may be out of shape and who have not played any sports for a while.

Drink plenty of fluids.

Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to help prevent heat-related illness, yet young athletes still need frequent reminders to drink up. Parents should make sure unlimited amounts of water are available for their children for the duration of the sports camp, in addition to making certain their children drink plenty of water both before and after the camp activities.

Staying hydrated is key to maintaining an adequate body temperature.

Watch for danger signs and take time to cool down.

Anticipating and recognizing the onset of a heat-related illness is critical in preventing a dangerous outcome. While the signs and symptoms generally are nonspecific – disorientation, dizziness, weakness, headache and vomiting – careful observation of behavior will help minimize risk. If your child is not behaving typically and the weather makes heat a concern, parents should investigate. Parents know their children best and can recognize when something is not quite right. If a child is overheated, remove any heavy equipment such as protective gear, a helmet or shin guards, give them cold water and insist they take time to rest.

The National Athletic Trainers’ Association recommends the following safety tips for athletes engaged in summer sports:

• Have sports drinks on hand for workout sessions lasting longer than an hour.

• Keep beverages cold – cold beverages are consumed 50 percent more than warm beverages.

• Hydrate before, during and after activity.

• Remove unnecessary equipment, such as helmets and padding, when environmental conditions become extreme.

• Clothing should be light-colored and lightweight.

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