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Beating the Heat in Athletics

by Athletico2 Comments

Every year heat illness affects thousands of people. Knowing the different types of heat illnesses and what to do to both prevent and treat them is imperative to the health and safety of yourself or your child. With the start of school, fall sports such as football are ready to hit the ground running. But are you prepared to beat the heat?

Exercising in hot and humid temperatures can cause various forms of heat illnesses. Below are the main types of heat illnesses:

  1. Heat rash is also known as prickly heat. Your skin becomes red and small little bumps develop. It usually shows up in areas of your body that continue to stay damp (i.e. back of your knees or elbow creases). It is treated by trying to stay dry and using a towel to wipe away dampness.
  2. Heat syncope (sin-co-pee) is fainting due to the heat. It happens most when people stand for long periods of time in the heat and do not hydrate themselves enough. This condition is treated by laying the athlete down and giving them fluids. It is also best to remove them from the heat.
  3. Heat cramps are muscle spasms that can occur in places such as your thigh, hamstring, calf, and abdomen. They are caused by dehydration and loss of electrolytes and salt. This condition is treated by light stretching of the affected body part and replenishing yourself. Sports drinks such as Gatorade are great at helping this condition.  Another way to prevent this condition is by making sure that you take regular water breaks or eating foods high in potassium such as bananas.
  4. Exertional heat exhaustion occurs when an athlete is out in the heat and prolonged sweating and dehydration occurs. Some of the signs and symptoms are excessive thirst, fatigue, elevated body temperature, slow response, and decreased coordination. To treat this condition, give fluids, move the athlete into a cooler environment, and replace electrolytes.
  5. Exertional heat stroke – this is a medical emergency! This condition presents itself when an athlete becomes severely dehydrated and starts have a rapid heart rate, increased respiration, high temperature up to 104 degrees, is dazed, and sweating noticeably less. Treatment of this condition involves immediate removal from heat environment, rapid cooling of the body, water/sports drink as tolerated, and most importantly getting them to the hospital!

Laws and policies are beginning to stress the importance of preventing heat-related illnesses. For example, there are new policies from the Illinois High School Association ( that outline high school football and getting athletes acclimated to wearing full pads. There is now a 14 day acclimatization period that is geared toward helping players deal with the heat. There are stricter guidelines about how many practices and what equipment can be worn.

Overall, there are many steps that can be taken to avoid heat illnesses: Be smart about the temperature, stay hydrated, rest in the shade, report symptoms to others early, and most of all know what to do in an emergency.  If you take these precautions, you should be able to beat the heat and have a safe and healthy season!

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The Athletico blog is an educational resource written by Athletico employees. Athletico bloggers are licensed professionals who abide by the code of ethics outlined by their respective professional associations. The content published in blog posts represents the opinion of the individual author based on their expertise and experience. The content provided in this blog is for informational purposes only, does not constitute medical advice and should not be relied on for making personal health decisions.

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  1. Michelle Helberg


    Thank you for asking! It depends on the type of compression clothing you get. There are some compression clothes that are designed to wick away moisture which helps keep you cool. However, there are some other compression clothing that is designed to keep you warm. So, just make sure that you purchase the compression clothing that is designed to help cool your body. It is still recommended that you wear light weight and light colored clothing to help avoid overheating.

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