It's that time of year again. The few weeks before school starts, thousands of kids across the country begin waking up early to attend football, cheerleading and band camps. While other students have a few more weeks to sleep in and enjoy the summer, kids involved in one way or another with the Friday night lights have to get ready now. Football season starts before you know it, and even in this summer's heat wave, the show must go on.
I'm kind of glad my son decided he wasn't much interested in little league football anymore. In my town, kids as young as first grade come out for a youth football camp every year sponsored by the Boys and Girls Club. They learn skills in the summer heat that they will be able to use on the field when their season begins around the end of August. This week, temperatures have been hitting 90 degrees by 10am, and topping 100 degrees by noon. Practicing in that kind of heat can be dangerous.
You can help protect your child from the heat if they have to participate in a summer sports or band camp. It's important that you do, because the effects of excess heat exposure can be devastating.
Be on site
If your child is practicing in the heat, the least you can do is be nearby. Yes, it's hot out there, but if they can take it while running, jumping or marching, you can handle it sitting in a beach chair. By making sure you or other trustworthy parents are on site for practices, you greatly increase the chances that the coach or instructor will act responsibly by giving the kids regular breaks and keeping them hydrated.
Supply extra water
As I wrote in another article, many people far underestimate the hydration needs of their children. Kids should be drinking 5 to 9 ounces of water at least every 20 to 30 minutes while they are out in the summer heat. Clearly, one bottle of water is not enough to keep a child hydrated through a summer practice. Carry extra water, enough for your own kid and maybe a couple more. You could be saving a life.
Block the sun
Hydration is most important, but second to that is sunblock. Your kid needs lots of protection from the sun, including sunscreen and a hat if possible. Kids eyes are also susceptible to sun damage. If they are allowed to wear sunglasses at practice, make sure they have a sturdy pair of UV blocking shades with a strap to keep them from falling off.
Don't be afraid to say enough
Use your sense. If your child or others are showing signs of heat exhaustion, be sure to speak up. No practice or game is more important than a child's health. Danger signs include dizziness, headache, profuse sweating, nausea, pale skin and more. Get a child out of the heat and hydrated if they seem to be in danger, and call emergency services if their condition has not improved considerably within half an hour.
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Tavia worked as a naturalist and recreation specialist at an Oklahoma lake during her college years. She enjoys using what she learned as an outdoor educator in her work with children today.