Although approximately 250 million people in the United States occasionally participate in sports or some sort of recreation, a recent study found that every year thousands of people are treated for heat illness while engaging in physical activity.
The new study, released by the Centers for Disease Control and Convention, found that heat illness, which includes symptoms of dehydration, nausea, vomiting, headache, dizziness, or a change in mental status, caused approximately 5,946 people to go to the emergency room annually. Heat illnesses occurred most frequently from July to September, with approximately 3,951 reported cases.
Heat illness is a leading cause of death and disability among U.S. high school and collegiate athletes. But the study looked at the prevalence of non-fatal heat illnesses among all ages by analyzing data from 2001 through 2009 from the National Electronic Injury Surveillance System All Injury Program. It found that the incidence of heat illness was highest among males at 72.5 percent and among those between 15 and 19 years old. Males were also more likely to be hospitalized than females.
In particular, the most common activities that lead to emergency-room visits for all ages were football at 24.7 percent and exercise at 20.4 percent. Among males, the most common activities that lead to heat illness were baseball, softball, and exercise. For females, baseball and softball were also leading causes, as well as track and field for those between the ages of 15 and 19, and exercise for those more than 20 years old.
So far, heat may have caused or contributed to as many as 64 deaths throughout the country, according to the National Weather Service. During the dome of heat that fell over the country recently, three people died from heat-related conditions in Maryland . There were no reported heat-related deaths in the District, even with temperatures surpassing 100 degrees.
Untreated heat illnesses can lead to potentially fatal illness, but can be preventable. The study recommends wearing lightweight, light-colored, and loose-fitting clothing. Exercise early in the morning or at dusk when it’s cooler and have a workout partner. Coaches should allow for frequent water breaks during practice.