Climate Change Raises Athletes' Risk of Heat Illness

TUESDAY, Aug. 27, 2019 (HealthDay News) -- A new study shows why climate change could put outdoor athletes at greater risk for potentially deadly heat illness.

The authors analyzed 239 locations in the United States and found that over the last four decades, 198 cities have had an increase in the number of days a year with a heat index temperature of 90 degrees Fahrenheit or more, according to the nonprofit group Climate Central, CNN reported.

The heat index measures how hot it feels when relative humidity is factored in with the actual air temperature. The National Weather Services heat index is calculated for shady locations with a slight breeze, and it can feel even hotter if you're in the sun.

Cities with the largest annual increases in days with a heat index temperature of 90 degrees F or hotter include: McAllen, Texas with 31.6 more days per year since 1979; Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with 24.2 more; New Orleans, with 23.6 more; Miami, with 23 more; and Savannah, Georgia, with 22.8 more, CNN reported.

Nearly a dozen cities had average increases of at least four "danger" days since 1979. A danger day occurs when the combined heat and humidity makes it feel like 105 degrees F or hotter. Since 1979, McAllen had an increase of 21.9 danger days, Houston had 9.6 more and Pensacola, Florida, had 5.9 days more, according to the study.

On extremely hot and humid days, sweat -- a natural cooling mechanism -- doesn't evaporate, impairing people's ability to cool down. It can also be hard to breathe on such days, CNN reported.

On heat index and danger days, it can be risky to exercise outdoors due to the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. High temperatures have led to the cancellation of a number of sporting events worldwide, including the New York Triathlon in July.

Since 1995, 64 football players in the U.S. have died from heat stroke, and 90ഉ of those deaths occurred during practices. The study says coaches should follow National Athletic Trainers' Association guidelines to protect players while practicing in the heat, including having fluids on hand at all times, encouraging rest breaks and monitoring for signs of heat-related illness, CNN reported.

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