Industry Insights

How to Prevent Heat Exhaustion in Youth Sports

By Melissa Wickes
July 25, 2023
3 min

It’s been a hot summer—so hot, in fact, that scientists say the first two weeks of July were the Earth’s hottest on human record. More than 90 million Americans are under heat alerts! 

In addition to high temperatures, summer also means two and a half months of school-free vacation for kids, so there’s ample time to get outside and play sports. Unfortunately, children are more susceptible to heat illness than adults—so much so that experts say almost half of those being affected are children. This is because children’s bodies have more trouble regulating temperature than those of adults—so adults need to intervene.

Whether they’re playing a friendly game of pickup at the park, playing with friends at summer camp, or using this time to hone in on competition and skill, it’s crucial that coaches, youth sports organizers, and parents do everything they can to prevent heat exhaustion in youth sports. 

In early July, we headed down to Round Rock, Texas to visit a Ripken Select baseball tournament where temperatures climbed as high as 102 degrees. We witnessed a lot of measures taken to prevent heat exhaustion throughout the tournament, because ultimately everyone just wants the kids to be safe. 

Here are some tips for your organization to help prevent heat exhaustion in your leagues this summer, with help from Johns Hopkins Medicine.

Preventing Heat Exhaustion in Youth Sports

Heat Acclimation

Slowly getting used to heat can help prevent heat related illnesses in children. Athletes should increase the duration and intensity of exercise little by little during the first 10-14 days of heat exposure, rather than all at once. This is especially important for kids who may not be in as great of shape. Keep in mind that heat-related illness isn’t confined to hot days. 


This may seem like it goes without saying, but staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to keep a child healthy in the heat. Young athletes should drink at least 16-20 ounces of water two hours before activity and 7-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes during the activity. 

“Hydration is key once you get home, too. What you drink today is what you sweat tomorrow,” one of the parents told me at the Ripken tournament. 

 Take Immediate Action

The most important thing in preventing heat illnesses in kids is immediate action when you suspect something may be wrong, and in order to do that it’s crucial to recognize the signs. 

According to the National Safe Kids Campaign, here are the symptoms of some of the more common heat illnesses:


  • Dry mouth
  • Thirst
  • Being irritable or cranky
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Cramps
  • Excessive fatigue

Heat Cramps

  • Intense pain not associated with an injury
  • Persistent muscle contractions that continue during and after exercise

Heat Exhaustion

  • Child finds it hard or impossible to continue to play
  • Loss of coordination, dizziness, or fainting
  • Dehydration
  • Profuse sweating or pale skin
  • Headache, nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea
  • Stomach/ intestinal cramps or persistent muscle cramps

If you see a child experiencing any of these symptoms, immediately pull them out of the game and begin cooling measures—like water, cold compresses, misting fans, or ice towels. Also, ensure everyone on your staff is aware of these symptoms and the next steps to take. 

Encourage Self Monitoring

It’s harder for kids to instinctively self-regulate their body temperature than it is for adults. Teaching young athletes to listen to their bodies and take a break if they feel overheated, dizzy, nauseous, or more tired than usual is key.

Have a Comprehensive Emergency Plan

Coaches, parents, and all staff should have a plan for responding to heat-related emergencies that includes:

  • Removing athlete from the heat
  • First aid
  • Seeking other medical attention if necessary

Consider Individual Circumstances

Some kids may be at higher risk for heat related illness—like those who are heavier, less in shape, or have health conditions. Make accommodations for these kids and monitor extra carefully. 

Pay Attention to the Heat Index

No one wants to cancel a game, tournament, or even practice, but you should pay attention to the heat index—which combines air temperature and relative humidity to determine how hot it feels—and consider modifying or canceling if it reaches dangerous levels. You can also schedule games or practices during the cooler parts of the day—like early mornings or late afternoons. Avoid scheduling intense activities during the hottest times of the day.

Provide Shaded Areas

Bringing tents, cabanas, umbrellas, and other forms of shade can keep kids cool while they break from activity. This will help lower their body temperature in between activities. 

Dress Appropriately

Encourage your team to wear light-colored, loose-fitting, and breathable clothing. Consider moisture-wicking fabrics to help with sweat evaporation, too. 

For more information about keeping kids safe from all kinds of harm, download this free guide to Risk Management.