The Heat is On

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This podcast considers the concerns of playing or working in your turf and gardens during extreme heat periods.  Particular emphasis is placed on protecting our youth from heat illness while participating in band or athletic camps.

This podcast is going to somewhat stray from the norm in terms of agronomic information typically provided in Virginia Tech’s Turf and Garden Tips, but it might turn out to be one of the most important podcasts I will do for the year.  The extreme heat of the Virginia summer warrants some extra precautions that should be taken when working or playing outdoors.  While touring numerous universities and high schools over the past couple of weeks, I have observed hundreds of boys and girls participating in various sports and band camps.  Also, fall football practice is upon us as well, and almost all of these activities are taking place either on natural or artificial athletic fields. Finally, the concerns with the heat can be just as serious for you and I working in our lawns and gardens IF we don’t take proper precautions and pay attention to our bodies warning signs (which we will talk about in just a bit).   

I’m going to suspect that the younger generation frequenting the sports and band camps is likely NOT making it a point to regularly listen to or download Virginia Tech’s “Turf and Garden Tips” podcasts (why they don’t, I have no idea!), so I want all of you with kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews, friends etc. to spread the word for me regarding using some common sense in how to deal with the heat.  The Virginia High School League has its own set of “Heat Guidelines” that can be accessed at This is a great reference for anyone to read concerning heat illness.  These guidelines do a nice job detailing the signs and symptoms of heat illness that everyone should be familiar with, including cramps, profuse sweating, flushed or cool skin, headache, and dizziness (as well as several others that are listed).  Also on the VHSL general web site (, you can find all the criteria that are used to “acclimate” student athletes in preparation for practice in these periods.  This info maybe isn’t exactly intended for us more “seasoned” folks working in the yard, but the points still readily apply.  

Coaches are required to follow these guidelines, but it is sometimes important to jog memories of them, parents, and the kids themselves that heat waves are not opportunities to “toughen kids up” (I think this was the philosophy way back in the late 70s when I was in high school), but instead can be potentially deadly events.

Remember that it is not just the temperature that needs to be considered.  Equally important is the relative humidity, so that when it is combined with the air temperature, you get values for popular terms that you hear regularly on The Weather Channel, or your local news talking about the “heat index” or the “humiture”.  These values can quickly be determined by the use of a digital psychrometer, a tool that measures both temperature and humidity and provides the appropriate calculations to present a heat index or humiture value.  I find them listed on the web at a price of about $100, so this is not an astronomical cost that deters folks from purchasing such a unit.  An assistant high school football coach friend of mine purchased one of these a few years ago and he takes a measurement every 30 minutes during potential stress periods so that the right decisions can be made regarding the health and safety of the kids at practice.  This sounds like a great policy to me and the VHSL web page provides more specific guidelines.

The table in the accompanying transcript to this podcast is taken from the VHSL Heat Guidelines and you can see that there are all kinds of combinations of temperature and relative humidity that warrant concern.  Note that VHSL guidelines recommend cessation of all outdoor activities when the humiture is 104 or greater.