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Training in the heat

Updated: Aug 3, 2013 10:04 AM
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SATURDAY, Aug. 3 (HealthDay News) -- Summer practice and fall sports seasons will soon be here and young athletes need to begin training now to help prevent heat-related illnesses, an expert says.

Many youngsters have spent the first month of summer vacation watching television or playing video games in the comfort of air conditioning, said Dr. David Lintner, an orthopedic surgeon and chief of the Houston Methodist Center for Sports Medicine.

"Kids need time to adjust to the heat," he said in a Houston Methodist news release. "Going from all-day air conditioning to practicing outside three to four hours a day can put young athletes at risk for heat-related illnesses, such as heat exhaustion or heatstroke."

Lintner advised young athletes to progressively increase their time outside to get their bodies used to being active outside again. On average, healthy young athletes should start spending 20 minutes a day outside and slowly increase their time until they are outside for two to three hours daily.

"Exercising, playing games, doing yard work, relaxing at the beach -- just being outside in the heat helps prepare a young athlete for outside practice," said Lintner, head physician for the Houston Astros and team orthopedist for the Houston Texans.

He also said parents and coaches need to know the signs of heat-related illnesses and when to call for medical help.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include nausea, dizziness, weakness, headaches, weak pulse, dilated pupils, disorientation or fainting spells. Heat exhaustion can be treated by taking the young athlete inside, and having them drink plenty of water and rest.

Symptoms of heatstroke include confusion and hot, dry skin. Heatstroke is a medical emergency and requires immediate treatment. Call 911 if you suspect heatstroke.

Lintner said although he treats athletes of all levels, "it's up to parents and coaches to take the necessary steps to help prevent heat-related illnesses."

More information

The American Academy of Family Physicians has more about heat exhaustion and heatstroke.

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