The eastern half of the country is baking under hot and humid weather with heat advisories posted and many schools closing due to the hot weather. While temperatures will drop for a few days later this week, the hot weather is predicted to return in that first week of September. The American Red Cross has steps you can take to help stay safe when the temperatures soar, with special safety information for school athletes practicing and playing during hot weather.
According to the Centers for Disease Control (CDC), more than 600 people in the United States are killed by extreme heat every year. Some people are more at risk of developing a heat-related illness, including adults age 65 and older, those with chronic medical conditions, people who work outside, infants and children and athletes. Follow these safety steps to help stay safe when the temperatures soar.
HEAT SAFETY TIPS
- Hot cars can be deadly. Never leave children or pets in your vehicle. The inside temperature of the car can quickly reach 120 degrees.
- Slow down, stay indoors and avoid strenuous exercise during the hottest part of the day.
- Postpone outdoor games and activities.
- Use a buddy system when working in excessive heat. Take frequent breaks if working outdoors.
- Stay hydrated by drinking plenty of fluids. Avoid drinks with caffeine or alcohol.
- Check on family, friends and neighbors who do not have air conditioning, who spend much of their time alone or who are more likely to be affected by the heat.
- Community cooling centers are available in many urban and metropolitan areas. Check with your local county office to locate centers near you.
- If someone doesn’t have air conditioning, they should seek relief from the heat during the warmest part of the day in places like schools, libraries, theaters, malls, etc.
- Avoid extreme temperature changes.
- Wear loose-fitting, lightweight, light-colored clothing. Avoid dark colors because they absorb the sun’s rays.
- Check on animals frequently to ensure that they are not suffering from the heat. Make sure they have plenty of cool water.
ATHLETES AND HEAT Heat and humidity can be especially hazardous for school athletes who are in the throes of practicing and playing fall sports. Here are some steps coaches and officials can take to help keep them safe:
1. Avoid scheduling workouts and exercise during the hottest times of the day – schedule them for early in the day or later in the evening.
2. Get players acclimated to the heat by reducing the intensity of workouts or exercise until they are more accustomed to the heat.
3. Have players take frequent, longer breaks. Stop about every 20 minutes to drink fluids and try to have them stay in the shade.
4. Those in charge should reduce the amount of heavy equipment athletes wear in the extremely hot weather.
5. Know the signs of heat-related emergencies and monitor athletes closely.
- Athletes should inform those in charge if they are not feeling well.
HEAT EXHAUSTION Excessive heat can lead to sunburn, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke. If someone is experiencing heat cramps in the legs or abdomen, get them to a cooler place, have them rest, lightly stretch the affected muscle, and replenish their fluids with a half a glass (about 4 ounces) of cool water every 15 minutes.
If someone is exhibiting signs of heat exhaustion (cool, moist, pale or flushed skin, heavy sweating, headache, nausea, dizziness, weakness, exhaustion), move them to a cooler place, remove or loosen tight clothing and spray the person with water or apply cool, wet cloths or towels to the skin. Fan the person. If they are conscious, give small amounts of cool water to drink. Make sure the person drinks slowly. Watch for changes in condition. If the person refuses water, vomits or begins to lose consciousness, call 9-1-1.
HEAT STROKE LIFE-THREATENING Signs include hot, red skin which may be dry or moist; changes in consciousness; vomiting and high body temperature. Call 9-1-1 immediately if someone shows signs of heat stroke. Move the person to a cooler place. Quickly cool the person’s body by immersing them up to their neck in cold water if possible. Otherwise, douse or spray the person with cold water, or cover the person with cold, wet towels or bags of ice.
ONLINE COURSE FOR COACHES The online course – First Aid, Health and Safety for Coaches – was developed by the Red Cross and the National Federation of State High School Associations to provide an overview of first aid and “best practices” for first aid situations encountered by coaches, including injuries to officials, fellow coaches or spectators. More information is available here.
DOWNLOAD RED CROSS APPS The Red Cross app “Emergency” can help keep you and your loved ones safe by putting vital information in your hand and settings for more than 35 different severe weather and emergency alerts including heat advisories and excessive heat warnings. The Red Cross First Aid App puts instant access to information on handling the most common first aid emergencies at your fingertips including heat-related emergencies. Download these apps by searching for ‘American Red Cross’ in your app store or at redcross.org/apps.