Students try to plod through hot practices

By Justin Boron

The sun beat down hard on the Jonesboro High School Marching Band, Friday morning - so hard some of the band members had to take a seat on the sidelines.

Joshua Moody, 14, said the temperatures creeping toward the 90s in mid-morning were tough to deal with.

"Every time I eat and get out in the heat I feel like I got to throw up," he said.

For several of the marching band members and athletes in the area, this was the first full week of practice. It also was a week that saw highs in the mid-90s.

Health officials warn that escalating temperatures for athletes and active people could result in heat-related illnesses like dehydration, heat stroke and heat exhaustion.

"Everybody's at risk, but certainly if you're out exercising and out running you're going to be at a higher risk," said Mike Mullet with the Department of Health.

With temperatures in the 90s expected through August, according to meteorologists, coaches and school supervisors are keeping a close watch on students out in the sun.

To counteract heat exhaustion, Jonesboro Assistant Band Director Chris Shumick said he was using frequent hydration breaks and a schedule that rotates indoor and outdoor practices throughout the day.

Gary Sharpe, the Henry County Public Schools athletic director, said the county is leaving it to the judgment of the individual coaches.

But he said he recognized the concerns about heat.

"All of our people are well trained and well schooled in the precautions in what their doing," he said.

Sharpe said in light of several student heat-related deaths in the past few years, none of which occurred in Henry County, all his high school athletic departments are equipped with defibrillators.

"We're trying to be more proactive instead of reactive," he said.

Al Hughes, athletic director and head football coach at Lovejoy High School, said his players should be prepared after an extensive summer conditioning program.

Nevertheless, he said he and his staff were paying close attention to hydration and getting their players in shaded areas.

Some the symptoms of heat stroke are dry skin and high body temperatures. People suffering from heat exhaustion would have lower temperatures, clammy skin, and possibly nausea, Mullet said.

"You've got to listen to your body," he said. "It's trying to tell you something there."

Sports drinks are especially important for people who are working very hard in the heat and are therefore losing electrolytes and sodium

In situations of heat exhaustion, emergency officials recommend first getting the person inside an air conditioned building. Then removing their shoes, socks and hats and putting cool clothes on the neck, top of the head and under the arms.