During warm weather months, people are spending time out in the sun playing sports, swimming, walking and enjoying the outdoors. However, most people are not aware that once the temperature is 70 °F or higher, chances of dehydration increase. Given that our bodies are approximately 75% water and blood is almost 80% water, replenishing fluid losses each day is extremely important. Unfortunately, when we become dehydrated, it causes the blood to thicken, increase heart stress and increase risk of a heart attack.
Dehydration can cause:
- Decreased alertness
- Increased thirst and appetite
- Muscle cramping
The most common heat-related conditions include:
- Heat cramps – Usually the first sign of dehydration may attribute to muscular pains and/or spasms in the abdomen or legs.
If it occurs:
– Move to a cool location and rehydrate with water. Sports drinks or coconut water (that are low in sugar and high in electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium) are also great if water isn’t available. Sugary sports drinks can cause worse abdominal cramps and nausea.
– Once improved, gently stretch and massage muscles to help with the cramps.
- Heat exhaustion- Includes flushed/ashened skin, headaches, nausea, dizziness or lightheadedness and fatigue.
If it occurs:
– Move to a cool location; excess clothing should be removed and wet towels or damp cloths should be placed on the patient’s forehead and body.
– If the person is conscious: 4 ounces of water every 15 minutes, until symptoms subside. However, if symptoms are not improving, or the person becomes more confused, medics/911 should be called.
- Heat stroke- a life-threatening condition that occurs when one experiences extremely high body temperatures, dry or damp red skin, confusion, rapid and/or weak pulse, nausea with vomiting, and sometimes seizures.
If it occurs:
– Call 911 immediately. While waiting for assistance, immerse the person in cold water and/or ice (neck deep). The rapid cooling process should be done over 20 minutes or until the person’s mentation is improved.
Some steps that can be taken to avoid dehydration or volume depletion, include:
- Walking around with a water bottle and sipping it regularly.
- Wearing lightweight, light-colored clothing (best if made of cotton or linen) to minimize heat absorption.
- Eating fruits and vegetables which are high in water content (i.e. grapes, melons, pineapples).
- Drink a glass of water before every meal and after using the rest room to replenish fluid lost.
- Monitor urine color. If urine is tea or apple juice colored, you are dehydrated. Urine should be light yellow in color when you are hydrated.
- Avoid caffeine or drinks with taurine that can increase dehydration, because they serve as diuretics, causing water loss.
- Stay in shaded areas to minimize heat exposure.
These simple steps can decrease adverse symptoms due to high temperatures and prevent dehydration while engaging in outdoor activities.