Mike Leverett was praying for clouds and wind.
As a coach of a softball fundamentals camp at Patriots Park recently, Leverett was hoping for breezes and clouds to keep the 30 second-through eighth-grade girls as cool as possible in temperatures that hovered in the mid-90s.
With the heat index higher than 100 many days this month, people working, playing or exercising outdoors are at a high risk of heat-related injuries, including dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke, said Dr. Steven Greer, the director of primary care for the Medical College of Georgia Sports Medicine Center.
"It is so easy to overdo," Greer said.
Leverett has been careful to make sure his young athletes don't overexert themselves. He has made them take breaks for water or Powerade and go inside the air-conditioned press box every half-hour.
"I make them go in, force them to cool off and drink," Leverett said.
Greer said Leverett is right to make the girls drink and cool off. He recommends drinking at least 16 ounces of water or a sports drink before outdoor exercise or work.
Proper hydration is necessary for sweating, which is the body's cooling system.
"When you sweat, basically the body pulls heat out of the body with water," Greer said.
High humidity makes sweating less effective to cool the body.
"It is the evaporation off the body that cools you down," he said.
Without pre-hydration and frequent breaks to cool down and drink, the body will not have fluid to sweat enough to cool down.
To help prevent heat-related illnesses, those planning outdoor activity should hydrate well, plan activities in the cooler early or late-day hours, stay in the shade, wear light-color, lightweight clothing and give your body time to acclimate.
Greer said people who are in the heat a lot, such as construction workers, are better acclimated and will begin to sweat at a lower temperature.
"They deal with the heat better," the doctor said. "Children are at a higher risk because they don't regulate their heat as well as adults."
People who are obese, sick or not accustomed to the heat are more susceptible.
When the humidity is above 70 percent, Greer said, even 70 or 80 degrees can be dangerous.
The doctor said it is important to recognize the signs of heat illness before they progress to heat stroke, which can be deadly.
Heat illness can dehydration, heat cramps, heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
Early warning signs of heat illness include thirst, cramps, irritability, headache, weakness, dizziness, nausea and reduced performance, according to the MCG Sports Medicine Center.
Anyone experiencing signs of dehydration or heat illness should immediately go indoors, cool down with a fan and drink fluids to rehydrate.
PREVENT HEAT ILLNESS
- Plan activities early or late in the day or reduce the intensity of the workout.
- Stay in the shade, if possible.
- Wear lightweight, light-color clothing.
- Minimize the amount of clothing you wear.
- Allow a few days to give your body time to get used to the heat before strenuous activity.
- Don't use thirst as a guide. If you hydrate only when you are thirsty, it is too late.
- Water is good for normal hydration. If you are exercising strenuously or for more than an hour, salt- and carbohydrate-filled drinks such as Powerade and Gatorade are a better choice.
- Drink at least 16 ounces of fluid one or two hours before exercise to ensure proper hydration.
- Take drink breaks every 20 minutes, especially if you are active for longer than an hour.
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine, because they can cause you to dehydrate more rapidly.
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