Summer is here! It is a time for people to be outdoors after a long winter. Adults and children are spending time outside in the hot sun gardening, swimming, baseball games or barbeques. This is a good time to remind everyone about dehydration and how to protect yourself when out in the sun. In order to prevent dehydration one must understand what dehydration is.
Up to 75% of the body’s weight is made of water. Most of the water is found within the cells of the body. Dehydration occurs when there is too much water lost, not enough water taken in or most commonly it is a combination of the two. Certain groups of people are more susceptible to dehydration those with diarrhea, vomiting, sweating excessively, diabetes, burn victims, infants, pediatric patients and the elderly. What are the signs of dehydration? The signs of dehydration vary from person to person but included are some of the most common symptoms. Signs of mild dehydration include: thirst, loss of appetite, dry skin, flushing, dry or cotton mouth, fatigue or chills. Signs of severe dehydration include: increase heart rate or respiration rate, decreased sweating or urination, extreme fatigue, nausea, muscle cramps or headache. Emergency help needs to be summoned immediately if a person is experiencing: muscle spasms, vomiting, shriveled or sunken skin, not producing any tears, racing heart rate, confusion, seizures, chest pain, blurred vision, confusion or unconsciousness due to dehydration. Complications due to dehydration can be kidney failure, shock, coma or death. Children and the elderly are more susceptible than teenagers or adults.
As often is the case in medicine, prevention is the most important first step in the treatment of dehydration. How is dehydration treated? Fluid replacement is the treatment for dehydration. This may be attempted by replacing fluid by mouth, but if this fails, intravenous fluid (IV) may be required. When rehydrating orally it is better to have frequent, small amounts of fluid (using a teaspoon or syringe for an infant or child) rather than trying to force large amounts of fluid at one time. Drinking too much fluid at once can bring on more vomiting. Examples of fluid replacement include: water, clear broths, and popsicles or replacement fluids such as Pedialyte or Gatorade.
Dehydration is best avoided by drinking plenty of water. The greater amount of water lost through perspiration the more water that must be consumed to replace it and to avoid dehydration. Even a healthy person must drink plenty of fluids everyday and more when the weather is hot or exercising. If possible schedule activities in the morning and not in the heat of the day. Those with working environments in the outside need to take frequent breaks and rehydrate more often. A useful rule of thumb for avoiding dehydration during strenuous activity involves monitoring the frequency and color of urination. If one develops a full bladder at least every 3-5 hours and the urine is only lightly colored or colorless, chances are that dehydration is not occurring; if urine is deeply colored, or urination occurs only after many hours or not at all, water intake may not be adequate to maintain proper hydration. Remember do not wait for signs of dehydration Prevent them.