We all make jokes about our bodies being a “well-oiled machine” but what really makes our motor run is water. Most of us drink a glass or two a day, or get by with diet soda, energy drinks, or coffee, and for the most part we do okay. It’s when there’s hot weather or strenuous activity to deal with that we need to pay closer attention to our body’s needs for liquids or risk suffering dehydration. Below we offer you some facts and tips about supplying your body with enough fluids to prevent your health from taking such a serious toll.
Causes of dehydration
When your body is losing more fluids than it’s taking in, you begin to get dehydrated. While it’s normal to lose fluids every day, sometimes certain conditions create a situation where we lose fluids in an amount faster than we can replace it. Some instances include excessive sweating, vominiting, diarrhea, fever, and even diabetes.
Symptoms of dehydration
Without enough fluids your body can’t continue its normal functions and as a result your body becomes unbalanced, or dehydrated. In severe cases, this can even lead to death. Below are some of the common symptoms of what it feels like to be dehydrated:
- Dry mouth
- Increased thirst
- Feeling faint
- Swollen tongue
Treating the problem
For the most part, treating someone who’s dehydrated can be done easily and safely. While the first instinct is to give them water, you want to make sure they sip in small amounts, or better, give them something with electrolytes, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte. For children or the infirm, you can also give them ice chips or popsicles (healthy ones from juice).
To make someone suffering from dehydration more comfortable, be sure to remove any unnecessary clothing and loosen what they’re wearing. If possible, move them to somewhere air conditioned, shaded, or anywhere away from the direct heat. Wet towels are helpful to decrease heat, but be careful to avoid ice packs directly on skin, since this actually does more harm than good. If you use a spray bottle to mist someone, the water should be at a lukewarm temperature.
If a person’s dehydration symptoms continue for more than a day, they should follow up with a health care provider, but if a person begins to have seizures, chest pains, or a fever higher than 103°, they should seek emergency treatment at a hospital immediately.
The best way to avoid dehydration is to consume enough fluid to replace what you’re going to lose, especially when you’re planning to do any outdoor activities in extreme heat. If possible, avoid doing anything strenuous when there’s a heat advisory, and take the opportunity to check in with the elderly or infirm to make sure they’ll have access to water.
If you find that you can’t avoid being outdoors in the heat, try wearing light colored, loose fitting clothes, and break up your exposure to the sun by taking breaks. You also want to be mindful of your alcohol consumption, since alcohol worsens water loss.
The good news is that dehydration is easily preventable and if it does happen, it’s easily treatable. With some planning ahead of time and a little preparation, you can enjoy all kinds of outdoors fun without worrying about it affecting you or your loved ones’ health.