Preventing Dehydration

Especially during the “dog days” of summer, it is extremely important to pay attention to your body’s need for hydration. Drinking sufficient quantities of water plays such a key role in your overall health and wellness, that it is hard to overstate the value of proper hydration. Although hydration is so important, many people have questions about how to stay hydrated. This blog post will answer some of those questions and provide you with helpful information about hydration.

What Is Dehydration?

Dehydration is when your body is taking in fewer fluids than it is losing.

Dehydration is often related to heat. Other names for dehydration include “sun stroke,” “heat stroke,” and “heat exhaustion.” Dehydration can, however, occur in cold months and temperatures.

Symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Feeling thirsty
  • Cracked / dry lips
  • Lightheadedness
  • Headaches
  • Nausea / vomiting
  • Leg or stomach cramps
  • Nosebleeds
  • Feeling overheated
  • Dry mouth
  • Darker urine

Dehydration is preventable, but common and usually treatable; however, it can be dangerous. It’s important to know how to prevent dehydration in order to protect yourself and your loved ones, especially if you are a parent of young children, an athlete or avid exerciser, or if you are sick.

When Is Dehydration an Emergency?

It’s also important to know when dehydration constitutes a medical emergency. If you or a loved one suffers severe heat stroke—for example, he / she passes out, displays signs of delirium, or has a body temperature of 102 degrees Fahrenheit or above—you must treat this as an emergency. Call 911 right away!

You can use the following steps to help a person suffering from serious heat stroke to get well while waiting for the emergency caregivers to arrive:

  • Move the person into a shaded area, out of direct sunlight
  • Cool their body using wet towels, fans, cold water below the neck, and ice packs
  • Avoid giving the person water unless he / she is conscious
  • Ensure that he / she receives medical care

Drink Lots of Water!

The first tip for avoiding dehydration is pretty obvious: Drink plenty of water! You can tell your body is dehydrated when you feel thirsty. Thirst is an excellent indicator of your body’s need to rehydrate. If you feel thirsty, you’ve already sustained a water loss of 1% of your body weight. If you are exercising or working hard, drink water before you get thirsty. Keep track of your water intake. A simple measurement tip: Drink half your body weight in ounces instead of pounds! In other words, if you weigh 150 pounds, shoot for 75 ounces per day.

How to Prevent Dehydration While Sick

If you are feeling unwell, it’s important to be proactive in avoiding dehydration by drinking extra fluids. Diarrhea, vomiting, and excess sweating can cause your body to get dehydrated much faster. Conditions such as diabetes also raise your susceptibility to dehydration. Skip the ginger ale and go for plain, pure water. You may need to supplement with a rehydration solution. Ask your doctor if you have questions.

How to Prevent Dehydration While Exercising

Athletes and avid exercisers need to be especially aware of their water intake, since they are losing more fluids through sweat. Don’t drink too much, but find the right balance for your body. Drink water before and after exercising in order to stay hydrated. “Water load” the day before or several hours before strenuous activity, and keep drinking water throughout the activity—roughly every 20 minutes—in order to avoid dehydration.

Pay Attention to the Weather!

If you are living in a hot and / or humid environment, you will need to take extra precautions against dehydration. Other environments that affect your body’s hydration needs include high elevations and conditioned indoor air.

Other Tips for Avoiding Dehydration

Remember these tips during the summer to help avoid dehydration:

  • Use wet towels or a water mister to keep your skin cool
  • Do NOT listen to workout “gurus” who encourage you to get dehydrated for fitness results
  • Watch the weather, and dress and plan accordingly
  • NEVER leave a child or pet in a hot car
  • If you begin to feel dehydrated while working or exercising, take a break
  • Replenish your electrolytes with non-caffeinated sports drinks or some fruits such as apples, oranges, or bananas
  • On hot days, dress in light colors and cool, lightweight, breathable fabrics

Check back to the AHMC Anaheim Regional Medical Center blog for more seasonal tips on living a healthy life season to season!

This article contains general information about medical conditions and treatments. The information is not advice and should not be treated as such. The information is not intended to replace the advice or diagnosis of a physician. If you have any specific questions about any medical matter you should consult your doctor or other professional healthcare provider.