Summertime means playtime, and playtime in overbearing heat can cause heat exhaustion and heat strokes in little folks. Whether on baseball diamonds, sweltering basketball courts or soccer fields, the sun can play havoc on fast-moving young bodies.

Fortunately, the Creator gave us a built-in cooling system that turns on instantly when the body becomes overheated. This system works fine if we don’t overdo it. As soon as the body determines that the core body temperature (inner body temperature) is rising too fast, sweat glands open up and produce a layer of water on the skin. As the water evaporates from the surface, cooling takes place.

It is known that little folks don’t perspire as readily as adults, which can cause a rapid increase in the core temperature and a malfunction of the cardiovascular system. Young folks also absorb a greater amount of heat from the environment, which also causes an increase in body temperature. Sweating, although beneficial, also causes a great deal of fluid and electrolyte loss. As a result, there is a loss of sodium and potassium. Symptoms of heat exhaustion are the following: lightheadedness, pale and clammy skin, nausea, headaches, weakness and a fast heart rate.

When heat exhaustion occurs, the person should be moved to a cooler place, have cold compresses applied to their arms, legs and behind the neck, sponged with an alcohol and water mixture, given small sips of water or Gatorade and placed on their back with feet elevated eight to 12 inches. Emergency services should be called immediately.

Heat stroke, on the other hand, is more serious and emergency service should be called immediately. Symptoms of heat stroke include one’s skin feeling dry and hot; an oral temperature of 106 degrees; a rapid but strong pulse; and possible personality changes such as odd behavior. Treatment for this condition includes restricting fluids by the mouth, evaluating the cardiovascular system, applying CPR (cardiopulmonary resuscitation), removing the person to a cool place, undressing the victim completely, applying cold compresses using an alcohol-water mixture and promoting cooling with the use of fans

To prevent heat exhaustion and heat stroke in little folks, I would suggest the following: make sure that they have adequate fluids before and after a game; dress them in clothing that breathes; do not allow children to play until they are exhausted–let them sit on the sidelines for a few innings; cancel the game if it’s too hot; spray a cool mist on their faces to cool the body down; and make sure a canvas shelter or tent is provided.

It is important to recognize heat exhaustion and heat stroke and to be prepared to take care of the emergency situation while awaiting further assistance.