Summer is upon us. You probably are looking forward to spending some time in a body of water this weekend, but outside of that how often do you think about water? Are you the type to have a water bottle sitting on your desk all day? If that water bottle is sitting on your desk, do you actually drink it, or tout it around just-because? Maybe you only think about water when you wake up in the middle of the night sweating and with a really dry mouth. When you have the flu, the last thing you’re thinking about is loading up on flavorless hydration because you can’t even keep any food down. Maybe if you’re a marathon runner you think about water, but only out of necessity. Whichever of these categories you fit into, I’m going to tell you the same thing.
The fact of the matter is if you’re a human being, male or female, and you’re walking around on this planet, you probably aren’t drinking enough water, and you ARE at risk for dehydration. Our bodies are composed, on average, of nearly 70% water. I know you’ve heard this fact about a million times before, but that doesn’t change the fact that you need more water. The amount of water you should consume each day varies by age, gender, and body composition. So, what is dehydration? And exactly how much water do you need?
What is Dehydration?
First and foremost, you need to understand that water is absolutely crucial to the life of every single cell within your body. Water is the foundation upon which cells are built. Additionally, the carbohydrates, proteins, and fats we eat are carried through our blood by the power of water to distribute nutrients throughout the body. Water also helps to regulate our internal body temperature. The water flowing through our body flushes out waste, lubricates your joints, and acts as a mechanism to absorb shock for our brain and spinal cord. Most importantly, though, water delivers oxygen all over our body. Without that, we wouldn’t be able to live for more than a few minutes. It’s easy to see how badly our body needs water. That’s part of why dehydration is such a threat.
Basically, dehydration occurs when your body is using more water than it is taking in, and it no longer has enough water to perform essential functions within your body. Your body will use up about 2-3 quarts of water each day through normal activity, sweating, breathing, urination, and excretion. After that, dehydration begins to occur. Dehydration besets the body in stages. They are as follows according to www.ciese.org. “At 1-2% dehydration, thirst is perceived. At 5% dehydration, a person becomes hot and tired and strength and endurance decrease. At 10% dehydration, delirium and blurred vision become a problem. At 12-20% dehydration, a person dies.”
It should be very obvious to you now how absolutely detrimental and life-threatening dehydration can be, and how quickly it can become an issue. It’s important to understand the signs, and know the steps to take. Being educated and acting swiftly could save your life, or the life of someone you love. Being informed will allow you to enjoy your summer fully in safety and give you peace of mind. So let’s get started!
There are some very obvious causes of dehydration and some not so obvious causes. Knowing the causes will help you know what to look for in any situation where you may become dehydrated. A very simple way to lose a lot of water very quickly is by sweating. Thus, exercise is a situation in which it’s very easy to become dehydrated. If you are exercising and losing a large amount of water very quickly in the form of sweat without replacing it, you may start to feel the effects of dehydration come on very quickly. If you work in a hot environment, you are also at risk for dehydration due to sweating. Interestingly, according to www.mercola.com, “One recent study revealed that dehydration can affect basketball players' performance. The study focused on 17 males ranging from 17 to 28 years old and determined their performance based on different dehydration levels of up to 4 percent. The result showed that when there's an increase in dehydration, skill performance decreases.”
Outside of exercise, dehydration can sometimes pose an even greater risk. When you fall prey to illness, dehydration can set in very quickly. A fever can cause you to sweat excessively. You may also experience diarrhea and vomiting, which are both acts in which the body depletes a lot of its water stores. If you urinate frequently due to alcohol consumption, blood pressure medications, or antipsychotics, you should be careful to watch for the signs. If you are a diabetic, you are at a higher risk for dehydration than others may be. It may sound dangerous and may even make you fearful when dehydration is portrayed in this way, but there is nothing to be afraid of. Prevention becomes simple when you understand that you’re at risk simply because you’re human. Symptoms are easy to recognize, so let’s go over some.
You should know to look for different symptoms in infants, children, adults, and the elderly. In smaller bodies that have not yet reached full maturity, the signs are sometimes slightly more difficult to recognize. With mild to moderate dehydration in adults, you may experience having a dry, sticky mouth. If your skin is dry, you are definitely on the way. In more moderate cases, the skin may even be cool to the touch. Headaches, dizziness, and nausea also accompany dehydration. If you have constipation and minimal urine, that is also a great indicator. You can almost always trust bodily excretions to gauge something like dehydration. Watch out especially for unusual sleepiness, muscle cramps, and few to no tears when crying. If your body isn’t doing anything you can think of that normally uses water, you’re probably beginning to suffer from dehydration.
When the symptoms become more serious, so does your dehydration. You will feel extreme thirst, irritability, and confusion. Your blood pressure will be very low, but you have a rapid heartbeat and rapid breathing. Your eyes will look sunken in your head, and there will be little to no urine when you try to go. Your urine may also be very dark yellow or even brown. Urine is a great way to gauge how dehydrated you are. Normally, your urine should be clear to very light yellow. If it is anything darker than that, you are definitely on the way to dehydration. Another great test for dehydration is to pinch the skin on your hand. If it doesn’t bounce back, your body is experiencing a loss of water. In very extreme cases, you will experience delirium or even lose consciousness, and it’s important to seek medical help as soon as possible.
Infants and children are much more susceptible to dehydration than adults, so it’s important to watch for the signs from children in your care, especially during long days in the pool or at the lake. You will notice that they urinate less frequently or have few to no tears when crying. They may also play less than usual or have a parched, dry mouth. Watch for loose stools as well. In some cases, infants may suffer from something known as fontanelle, which is a sunken soft spot on the head of the baby. This signals dehydration. In extreme dehydration, your child will be extremely fussy and upset, very sleepy, and have sunken eyes. Their skin will be wrinkly and their hands and feet may even be cool and very discolored. When you start to recognize the signals of dehydration, it is essential to make an effort to restore your body’s lost water as quickly as possible. If any of the symptoms above are exhibited, contact a medical professional immediately.
If not treated, dehydration can quickly become debilitating and lead to heat injury, urinary problems, kidney stones, seizures, low blood volume shock, and even death. There are simple steps you can take each day to ensure you never come close to experiencing any of these things! The most simple, quick, and effective way to gauge your dehydration is to watch your level of thirst. Drinking plenty of fluids each day and eating foods that are high in water content such as watermelon or tomatoes. If you begin to have diarrhea or vomit, you should start drinking as much water as you can as soon as possible to replenish your fluid levels.
Pay attention to the weather as well. In hot or humid weather, you need to supplement with extra water to replace the fluids you’re sweating out. Even in cold, dry weather, it’s important to drink more water to make up for the lack of water in the surrounding atmosphere. Watch out for illnesses as well. As discussed earlier, it’s very easy to lose a lot of water while sweating. Make sure you prepare well for strenuous exercise by drinking a lot of water the day before and eating foods high in water content, as discussed earlier. Dehydration will never become an issue if you think it through, prepare, and plan ahead.
Whether you’re running in the hot weather, hiking, spending a day at the lake or taking your kids to the pool, water should always be on your mind. If you’re educated and prepared, dehydration should never become a serious issue. Just make sure you have a plan, and follow a few simple steps to keep yourself in check. If you’re planning on participating in strenuous activity, hydrate the day before. If you’re going to be out in the sun all day, make sure you bring plenty of water and know when it’s time to take a break. If you fall ill, hydration should be your top priority. Try to take small steps to stay hydrated each day by drinking 6-8 glasses of water each day, and foods that are rich in fluids. Stay safe this summer, and don’t forget to contact a medical professional if you think you’re experiencing any serious side effects of dehydration. Happy pool days!Click here to schedule your FREE Discovery Call with me!