CRESTVIEW — Southern Floridians may playfully refer to the Hub City as “Florida’s icebox," but when temperatures reach the triple digits, it’s important for everyone — from student athletes to the elderly — to avoid heat exhaustion.

“The biggest criteria is staying hydrated and avoiding the hot part of the days,” said Penny Pinkerton, a physical education teacher at Crestview High School who starts her classes off slowly to get her students acclimated to the heat. “Be mindful of the heat and the heat index. You might be out in the heat and it’s 88 [degrees Fahrenheit], but with the heat index it’s 96. So you have to be mindful of the weather you are in and keep your activity indoors."

Playing it too safe isn't the best idea, either. 

"I think avoiding it (the sun) all together is a bad idea too because people need to be acclimated to the heat," Pinkerton said. 

There are two types of heat exhaustion: dehydration and salt depletion. Symptoms of dehydration include excessive thirst, headaches and loss of consciousness. And the symptoms of salt depletion are dizziness, nausea and vomiting. If heat exhaustion becomes too severe it can turn into heat stroke, which can be deadly.

“Hydration to me is a very important part [of] staying healthy,” said Pinkerton, who largely eschews Gatorade and other electrolyte-bearing drinks in favor of water. “I know there are electrolytes, but I think eating a variety of food will keep those electrolytes in you and I tend to stick to water, when people say Gatorade or Powerade.”

Pinkerton also dismisses the widely held belief that anyone participating in athletics should have a pasta dinner the night before strenuous exercise.  

“It’s not the dinner they are skipping, it’s the breakfast,” she said. “My focus with my kids is that a lot of them don’t eat breakfast. I told them they don’t have to get up and eat eggs, even if they have a slice of pizza or a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, any carbs that are going to help kick start their body, that’s a good thing. 

"Not eating meals is depleting your body and mind of functioning in the morning.”

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