Summertime, and livin’s easy! It is the best time of the year: school is out, and it is time to go out and have some fun in the sun! It is also time to keep up with your cheerleading practice, and to stay in shape for those upcoming tryouts and camp! Summertime may be the best, but it can also be dangerous if you are not used to being outdoors. With record temperatures around the nation year after year, it is best to be prepared than to suffer from heatstroke or heat exhaustion.


What is heat exhaustion? Heat exhaustion is when your body has been exposed to high temperatures and, in most cases, is also dehydrated. There are two types of heat exhaustion: water depletion and salt depletion. If you are suffering from water depletion, you will be excessively thirsty, probably have a headache, and possibly faint, or feel like you may faint. The warning signs for salt depletion, however, include nausea and possible vomiting, muscle cramping, and dizziness. Heat exhaustion is not as severe as heatstroke, but should still be taken seriously.

If you feel you may have heat exhaustion, the best thing to do is go indoors, preferably in air-conditioning. You should drink water–do not drink caffeine or alcohol (for cheerleaders over the age of 21)! Caffeine or alcohol will further dehydrate you, causing your heat exhaustion to worsen. If possible, take a cold shower and sit in front of a fan. If after 15 minutes you do not feel better, seek medical attention because you may have heatstroke.

Heatstroke is when your core body temperature reaches above 105 degrees Fahrenheit. Heatstroke, or sunstroke, is a medical emergency and 911 should be called immediately. Symptoms of heatstroke have similar signs as heat exhaustion, such as headache, nausea or vomiting, cramps or muscle weakness, dizziness, and red or hot skin. Heatstroke also has symptoms such as lack of sweating despite it being hot, rapid heartbeat, shallow breathing, behavioral changes (i.e. confusion or disorientation), and possible seizures. Again, heatstroke is a medical emergency and call 911 if you feel you’re experiencing extreme symptoms because heatstroke can cause brain damage, damage to internal organs, and can lead to death.

Being prepared for outdoor activities is a must to avoiding heatstroke or heat exhaustion, and start by wearing the right kind of airy clothing! Be sure to always check the weather before going out to do strenuous activities or exercise; this is especially important if you live in an area with high humidity. Humidity over 60% or more hinders sweat evaporation, which impedes your body’s ability to cool itself. It is best to workout indoors on those days, or do a lighter workout outdoors. You should also dress for the weather: wear lightweight loose-fitting clothing that allows your body to breath. You should be wearing sunscreen, and also drink plenty of water; you should be drinking 8 ounces of water every 15 minutes during your workout. You should also be taking breaks. Taking a moment on those hot days to drink water in the shade allows your body to cool down.

Most importantly, you know your body best, so listen to it! If you feel like you are getting to hot, get out of the sun, sit down, and drink some water. Don’t push yourself too hard during those heat waves, and avoid doing strenuous activity outdoors on those days. It might be best to visit your local air-conditioned gym if you have to get a workout in, or go swimming at your local community pool to stay cool and get in some cardio. You don’t want to let heatstroke stop you from having a great summer vacation. Be prepared for the hot weather, and be sure to drink plenty of water!

What else do cheerleaders need to know about avoiding heatstroke? Let us know your experience cheering outdoors in the comments!