10 Ways to Stay Healthy Playing this Summer, from Dr. Ginny Hendricks

It’s summer, so it’s time to put the study books and homework away and play! People of all ages can’t wait to get outside, especially after our recent bitter cold winter. Whether it’s for an organized sport or just for fun, it’s important to take care of yourself when you amp up your physical activity. With the added factor of heat that comes with sunny summer days, we thought it would be a good idea to talk with Dr. Ginny Hendricks, family physician and sports medicine specialist at Little Company of Mary Hospital, to find out her tips and advice for staying healthy and safe this summer.

Dr. Hendricks1. What are some swimming safety tips?
Swimming can be fun and enjoyable, but it’s important to be safe. A few simple tips:
• Always swim with a buddy.
• Children should be constantly supervised by both an adult and a lifeguard if possible.
• Younger children or people learning to swim should have a Coast Guard approved flotation device.
• There are many learn-to-swim courses taught throughout the Chicago area and are a good idea for people of all ages.

2. Soccer and Baseball season is here. What are some great tips to warm up before kids start a game or practice?
Warming up is always a good idea to get muscles loose and to mentally get in the game. Start with some gentle movements, such as jogging, and then progress to more explosive movements, such as jumping and twisting. Then, prepare mentally with some sport-specific drills, such as throwing/catching a baseball or dribbling/passing the soccer ball. A good warm up should be done consistently before every game and practice and take 10-15 minutes. Muscles are never “warm” at the start, regardless of the outside temperature.

3. What are some pre and post-game/workout foods and drinks?
Avoiding a full meal before exercise is a good idea, but a quick snack can help give you energy for your upcoming activity. Eating before exercise should be done 30-60 minutes before you plan to start. A good snack has 5-10 grams of protein, some fiber and isn’t high in calories. Some good examples are toast with a banana and peanut butter; greek yogurt and trail mix; a granola bar (look for bars that have less than 200 calories) and fruit; or crackers with lunchmeat and cheese.
After exercise, it’s important to eat a meal that includes carbohydrates and protein within 2 hours to help your muscles recover. Examples include chicken or fish with vegetables, a bean burrito or whole grain pasta with vegetables.

4. After a game, should kids practice a cool-down? What are some cool-down tips?
A short cool-down is a good idea after strenuous exercise such as soccer. Slowing down from running to a brisk walk and then a slow walk over a period of 5 minutes helps to regulate blood flow and prevent pooling along with slowing down your heart rate.

5. Should parents spend a little extra on sports equipment and shoes?
How much to spend on equipment depends on the age and skill level of your athlete. For those who are young and/or new to a sport, buying less expensive but well fitting shoes is fine. As kids get older and more advanced, they are likely going to need more expensive equipment. A well fitted shoe isn’t too narrow or wide and has a thumb’s width or slightly more room at the toe.

6. What kind of SPF sun screen lotion should parents apply to their kids before an outdoor game?
More expensive sunscreen isn’t always better. A good sunscreen:
• Has an SPF of 30-50 (going higher probably doesn’t provide significantly more protection)
• Has broad spectrum UVA and UVB protection
• Is water resistant (since kids are likely to be sweating)
• Is hypoallergic and fragrance-free
For older children, consider a form that is easy for them to reapply themselves- stick, spray, etc. Also, consider chapstick with sunscreen and/or clothing with UPF (Ultraviolet Protection Factor). Sunscreen should be applied liberally before exercise, using approximately 1 ounce for the entire body. It should be reapplied at least every 2 hours, more frequently if sweating.

7. Do you have a temperature limit where you recommend not playing outdoors?
The Heat Index is important when deciding whether it’s too hot to play or practice outside. This looks at temperature and humidity. Hot and dry weather can lead to dehydration faster, since sweating isn’t as effective when it dries from the body quickly. For a heat index under 95, recommendations are for optional 10 minute water breaks every 30 minutes and, at all times, providing ample amounts of water that athletes can drink as frequently as they desire. For a heat index over 95, mandatory 10 minute water breaks every 30 minutes are recommended along with ample water at the side lines. Help prevent overheating by avoiding extra equipment, such as football pads or helmets if not practicing contact. Coaches and parents should always be aware of signs of overheating.

8. What are signs of overheating?
Signs of heat exhaustion include the athlete not sweating any longer, nausea/vomiting, fatigue, flushed or moist skin, headaches, racing heart rate or rapid breathing, or muscle cramps. Any of these should mandate that the athlete stop practice, remove excess clothes, move to a shaded or air conditioned area, drink plenty of water or Gatorade and consider a cool shower/immersion in an ice water bath if not improving with the previous measures. If someone is confused or has lost consciousness, they have likely advanced past heat exhaustion to heat stroke, and this has become an emergency. Call 911 as soon as possible while also doing the above interventions. It’s important for parents to stress to their kids the early signs of heat exhaustion, since everyone has a different threshold for entering into heat exhaustion. Catching heat exhaustion early can prevent it from becoming more serious.

9. What are the signs and symptoms of a concussion?
Concussions can happen after any impact to the head. Symptoms may occur immediately or several days later. Symptoms may include headaches, feeling like someone’s in a fog, emotional lability, nausea/vomiting, slurred speech, someone seeming as though they’re dazed, seeing stars, or ringing in the ears. Most of these milder concussions can be followed up in a primary care office within a few days. Concussions that include loss of consciousness, vomiting repeatedly, worsening headache or changes in behavior need to be seen in the emergency room. Concussion care at home includes frequent snacks with lots of water, brain rest (no screen time including texting, TV, video games, etc.) and plenty of rest and sleep.

10. What should parents do if their child is injured?
Most minor head trauma, strains and sprains do not necessitate a visit to the emergency room. As long as there is no bleeding or protruding bones, parents are probably safe calling their primary care physician (PCP) the next day for an appointment. If their PCP isn’t available for a few days, parents can consider taking their child to an Urgent Care Center like Little Company of Mary’s Outpatient Care Center at 6700 West 95th Street in Oak Lawn, Illinois, where X-rays, splinting, and bracing are generally available for walk-in appointments. For more complicated injuries, including those that require casting or long-term follow up, it may be beneficial to see a Sports Medicine or Orthopedic physician.

Dr. Hendricks is now accepting new patients at her Evergreen Park location. Call 708-425-9550 to make an appointment. Learn more about Dr. Hendricks.

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