With summer approaching, it's important to understand how to protect your body from exposure to the elements. Not only can increased heat and sun exposure dehydrate you and damage your skin, it can also have adverse effects on your performance.
Injuries and Dangers
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every year in the United States, heat-related deaths occur more often than deaths from hurricanes, lightning, tornadoes, floods and earthquakes combined.
When the body is unable to properly cool itself, it succumbs to fatigue and its internal organs can become damaged.
Cramping and heat exhaustion are just two of the early warning signs that could increase your chance of injury due to hot temperatures. Other symptoms include headaches, nausea and dizziness. Recognizing these symptoms is critical to avoiding potential danger and protecting yourself while playing and training in hot environments.
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Watch What You Wear
In the summer months, athletes are quick to shed clothing when training. Tank tops and shorts are common, but they may hurt you more than help you. Direct sun exposure for long periods of time can damage your skin, which can lead to sunburn and potential sun poisoning. Sun exposure can increase dehydration and lead to increased fatigue, impacting your ability as an athlete to perform optimally.
To combat sun exposure, wear long sleeved, sweat-wicking apparel to protect your skin and keep you cool. In humid environments, sweat does not evaporate fast enough to keep the body cool. Sweat-wicking technology protects against this and allows you to perform at your best.
But, that's not all.
If your eyes are exposed to the sun for too long, they can become dry and irritated. This exposure can have long-term effects on your eyesight. Wear glasses or goggles that lessen the impact of the sun's effects on your eyes.
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Dehydration isn't just dangerous, it can impact your performance. According to research, a 2.5 percent decline in body weight due to fluid loss can decrease high intensity exercise performance by as much as 45 percent.
You can become dehydrated even before entering a hot environment, simply by not hydrating properly over extended periods of time.
To protect yourself from dehydration, you need to understand how to stay properly hydrated at all times. At the very least, take in the recommended eight glasses of water per day. During heavy exercise, drink 16 to 32 ounces of water per hour of activity.
Taking these steps will help prevent heat-related injuries and allow you to maintain your performance throughout summer training and games.
What to Do If You Are Already Exposed
Most athletes are not properly hydrated. The first step toward proper hydration is to keep your water intake high every day.
If you get a sunburn, treat it with aloe and stay out of direct sunlight. If you must be outdoors exposed to the sun, dress properly. Continual exposure to the sun can damage your skin and increase your chance of suffering sun poisoning or heat exhaustion. A sunburn will also dehydrate the body, so drink enough water to combat its ill effects.
If you are feeling nauseous or tired after a practice or training session, rest in a cool environment. Find an area with air conditioning and begin to replace lost fluids. In addition, it's important to replace minerals lost from sweating and activity. Have a sports drink. The minerals in sports drinks are vital to your performance and well-being.
Never allow yourself to get so tired or sick that you risk hurting yourself. Be open about how you're feeling and take immediate action. Let coaches, trainers and teammates know so they can monitor you, and seek medical help if symptoms persist.
Before, during and after training, practice or a game, do these key things:
- Properly hydrate.
- Wear clothes that cover your skin and wick sweat away to help cool your body.
- Wear protective eyewear during prolonged sun exposure.
- Apply (and reapply) sunscreen of at least SPF15 on exposed areas like your scalp, face, ears and lips.
- Replace fluids during activity.
- Replace lost minerals following activity.
- Find a cool environment following activity to rest your body and prevent injury.
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