Teachers and Parents Working to Keep Students Safe in Hot Climates

In 2012 Michael Bergeron, Cheryl L. Richardson, and E. Paul Roetert published an informative essay titled “Physical Activity in the Heat: Important Considerations to Keep Your Students Safe. ” The purpose of their essay is to educate teachers on preventing and treating heat related illness on school campuses. Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert note the importance of recognizing signs and symptoms, as well as how to respond to and treat emergencies. The authors discuss many ways in which teachers and parents may work together to help prevent children from suffering heat related illness during activities in hot weather.

They emphasize the importance of detecting symptoms early as well as quick response to any possible emergencies. When warm weather approaches it is necessary for physical educators to be prepared and educated on safe practices for students during outdoor physical activity. The authors find that July and August are normally the hottest months of the year, but spring and fall may also be quite warm. It is important for school administrators, parents, and students to be educated on heat exhaustion and other heat related issues.

The authors write “A child’s ability to regulate core body temperature in the heat is influenced by a number of factors, including the environment, intensity and duration of physical activity, hydration status, cardio-respiratory fitness, body composition, health status, current use of medications, and clothing, uniforms, or protective equipment”. Proper hydration and being physically fit does not guarantee students safety in the heat (Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert). Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert suggest that all staff be aware of the procedures and protocol for keeping students safe when exposed to warm climates.

The best way to prevent heat related health issues is by detecting symptoms early. The authors write “all staff should be provided with regular professional development on recognizing the signs and symptoms of developing heat illness. ” Teachers should also know where to locate and how to administer the first-aid kit and automated external defibrillator (AED) in case of an emergency. Up to date first-aid and CPR training will also be very beneficial (Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert). Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert discuss the importance of having an emergency action plan when a student shows symptoms of a heat related illness.

All staff should be aware of this plan and know the steps in the event of an emergency. It is possible for symptoms of a serious issue to be subtle and after a brief rest period students will want to return to their activities before an evaluation can be conducted. Students often begin to feel better quickly after a minor heat illness, but a proper evaluation by the school nurse or health care provider is necessary to ensure that they can carry on safely with physical activities (Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert). Prevention begins with being kind to your body.

The authors write “Children [students] have a certain degree of personal responsibility for managing hot conditions”. Drinking plenty of water, eating well, and wearing comfortable cool clothing are important ways to prepare for the heat. Students should be educated about the warning signs of heat illness, and know when to inform staff if they witness signs of symptoms in their peers. It is important for students to recognize the differences between the normal effects of heat and the symptoms that could result in a serious issue.

Sending a letter home to parents educating them on the issue of heat illness is also a good precaution. Parents should make every effort possible to send their children to school with proper supplies and information helping them to manage hot weather conditions. Proper hydration and clothing will help defend against heat related problems. Sunscreen is just as important in keeping students safe. Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert write “approximately half of all new cancers are skin cancers”. SPF sunscreen of 30 or more greatly decreases the possibility of skin cancer.

Most are not aware that water and concrete reflect 85 percent of the sun’s rays, yet another reason sunscreen is necessary for protection (Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert). When summer approaches climates get warmer, it can take a couple of weeks for the body to adjust to these new conditions. Activity should be kept to a minimum at first, and students should be encouraged to take it easy while adjusting to warmer temperatures. Students should be introduced to these conditions slowly to lower the possibility of heat related issues. The body will acclimate itself to warm conditions naturally.

Students are not suggested to push their limits early in the season; their tolerance will improve over time (Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert). Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert find that staying hydrated plays a major part in preventing heat illness. The authors write “Thirst is sometimes not a sufficient stimulus to prevent significant body water deficits, especially during vigorous, long-term exercise in the heat. ” Students should not wait until they feel thirsty to hydrate, it is important to keep the fluids flowing during physical activity.

Proper hydration should begin before activity, and can start the night before. During activity, a general rule of thumb is 4-8 ounces of water every 15 minutes and should be increased with excessive sweating. Sweating causes a loss of electrolytes, which should be replenished after an activity is concluded. Electrolytes consist of chloride and sodium, both are essential in preventing heat related illness. Hydration should be continued after the activities have concluded. Sports drinks work well to replenish electrolytes and are also a good source of carbohydrates.

Fruits and vegetables contain essential nutrients and are mostly water. They are a good choice for helping students maintain proper hydration before and after heat exposure (Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert). The time of day should be considered when planning outdoor activities for students. Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert write that outdoor activity should be limited between 12:00 p. m. and 4:00 p. m. , when the sun’s ultraviolet rays are most intense. Vigorous activity should be closely supervised during this time of day. Indoor gyms without air conditioning may also present the possibility of heat related illness.

Indoor facilities can become very hot and humid, and should be treated with the same consideration as outdoor activities (Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert). It is sometimes possible for students to have a lower tolerance to physical activity in the heat due to medical conditions and medications. It is important for parents to inform teachers and staff about possible health issues. Parents should consult with their child’s physician for information about medical issues and inform teachers of their special needs. Immediate action should be taken when students exhibit signs of heat related illness.

Symptoms may include: chills, shivering, dizziness, fatigue, headache, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and profuse sweating. Teachers are often responsible for large groups and should consider asking students to inform them immediately when fellow classmates display symptoms of heat related illness. Awareness and a quick response are vital to ensuring student safety (Bergeron, Richardson, and Roetert). Heat related illness should not be taken lightly; minor symptoms can quickly create very serious health issues. Adequate knowledge and quick response can prevent heat related illness and very well save lives.

Children love to play outside and nature is beautiful and should be enjoyed whenever possible; physical activity benefits children in many ways and should not be kept indoors. Through proper education and awareness teachers can be confident they are doing everything possible to safeguard the health of their students. Work Cited Bergeron, Michael, Cheryl L. Richardson, and E. Paul Roetert. “Physical Activity in the Heat: Important Considerations to Keep Your Students Safe. ” Strategies: A Journal for Physical and Sport Educators 25. 6 (2012): 28+. Academic OneFile. Web. 13 June 2013.

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