When elementary school-aged children start up outdoor activities, from participating in games on the school playground to playing in sports leagues, it’s easy to think that the hottest days of summer are over and there’s less of a heat-related risk for them.
Unfortunately, that’s just not the case.
While most young athletes won’t think too much about it, the fact is the heat and sun can be dangerous if precautions aren’t taken – particularly for younger kids who may be wrapped up in the fun and excitement of the game.
Here are seven tips to keep your little athletes safe under the heat while they’re at play.
- Be mindful of the temps.
Keep an eye on the heat index. The hotter it is outside, the harder those little bodies have to work to keep cool. Artificial turf can be as much as 30 degrees hotter than the outdoor temperature. Although the benefits are vast – little maintenance and no cancellations for muddy fields – these turf grounds can pose an additional heat risk. When playing on artificial turf, be extra vigilant of taking plenty of breaks for water and to cool down.
It’s also a good idea to schedule sporting events outside of peak sun hours, typically between 10:00 a.m. and 3:00 p.m.
- Ensure water (not sports drinks) is always close at hand.
The best way to keep kids safe from heat-related injuries is by keeping them hydrated. Often, by the time they feel thirsty, they may already be dehydrated. Avoid this by encouraging them to drink plenty of water before play or during a game, as well as regularly pausing for water breaks.
Although sports drinks often offer electrolytes to help replenish nutrients lost through sweating and activity, water is still your best bet. In addition to encouraging kids to keep a water bottle nearby, coaches and administrators should keep a cooler or extra bottles on hand.
- Get their gear right.
As most sports league teams wear uniforms, keep the weather in mind when choosing their gear. As the sport allows, try and keep them lightweight, loose-fitting, and light-colored to keep cooler in the summer heat. Additionally, natural fibers, like cotton, breathe better and will feel cooler than synthetics.
- Practice sun safety.
Children should wear a broad spectrum sunscreen with sun protection factor (SPF) of 30 or higher, which should also be reapplied regularly, particularly when sweating. Consider making this a part of your guidelines to keep kids protected from damaging ultraviolet rays.
- Take a break.
Make a plan for regular breaks during practice to allow children to cool off. When scheduling competitive games, make sure halftime or the seventh inning stretch allow ample time for the youngsters to recover and rehydrate – preferably in a shady spot off the field.
- Don’t neglect the fans.
An iconic element of youth sports comes from the parents, grandparents, neighbors and other supporters cheering for their favorite player from the stands. Though they may not be the star of the show, their comfort and safety is just as significant. Whether in state-of-the-art bleachers or lawn chairs, make sure the fans have a shady area to watch the game that’s far enough and shielded from the action so as not to risk injury from any stray balls or other equipment.
- Keep first aid top of mind.
While it’s important to take precautions to keep kids safe in outdoor activities, not every issue can be thwarted or planned for. Make sure your school administrators and coaches are all trained in CPR and AED administration, so there’s always someone ready to jump in and act on an emergency.
At SOS Technologies, our safety consultants can make sure you’re geared up for a fun, exciting and safe time as your kids play outdoors. The SOS Education Package can keep you prepared for an emergency on the field, playground and many other areas on school grounds. To learn more or to arrange for a safety audit of your facility, call SOS at 888.705.6100.