“We’re walking less than three miles on a trail, I don’t think we’ll need any water,” was the answer to my question before we set out the other day. But, to make a short hike long, we got a little lost. When all was said and done we hiked/walked over five miles uphill the whole way in blistering heat. Well, that’s an exaggeration. But, what isn’t is that when we got home we both gulped downed eight ounces of water before you could say “H2O.”
And I instantly thought, voila! I have today’s subject: Hydration, which is defined as a means to introduce additional fluid into the body, and dehydration which is an abnormal depletion of body fluids.
“Keeping the body hydrated helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. And, it helps the muscles work efficiently,” The American Heart Association website states. “Dehydration can be a serious condition that can lead to problems ranging from swollen feet or a headache to life-threatening illnesses such as heat stroke.”
You’ve heard it before, but I’ll tell you again that by the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. And you probably also know that the best way to judge if you’re getting enough fluids is to monitor your urine. Everyone should be urinating every two to four hours and the urine should be pale and clear. Bright yellow is an indication of mild dehydration and if it’s brown it’s serious.
Most experts will tell us to drink roughly 64 ounces of fluids each day. Do not include soft drinks or alcohol in that count, but you can include tea and coffee. Also, roughly 20 percent of our water intake comes from foods such as cucumbers, iceberg lettuce, celery, radishes, tomatoes, green peppers, cruciferous veggies like cauliflower and broccoli and, we can’t leave off everyone’s favorite, watermelon.
“Sports drinks with electrolytes may be useful for people doing high intensity, vigorous exercise in very hot weather, though they tend to be high in added sugars and calories,” AHA says. And they say to drink plenty of water before you exercise or go out in the sun. “Otherwise you’re playing catch up and your heart is straining.”
It’s not only about the sun and the run, other conditions can cause rapid and continued fluid losses. They include having a fever, vomiting, diarrhea, diseases such as diabetes, or not having access to safe drinking water.
“Significant injuries to skin, such as burns or mouth sores, or severe skin diseases or infections (water is lost through the damaged skin) can lead to dehydration,” WebMD says.
Symptoms of dehydration include increased thirst, dry mouth and swollen tongue, weakness, dizziness, palpitations (feeling like your heart is jumping or pounding), confusion, sluggishness, fainting, inability to sweat and/or urinate.
If you experience diarrhea or vomiting for more than one day, have a fever over 101 degrees or are confused and weak you should contact your primary care provider.
Have someone take you to the emergency department if your fever exceeds 103 degrees, you’re confused, sluggish, have a headache, seizures, have difficulty breathing, have chest or abdominal pains, are fainting and particularly if you haven’t urinated in the last twelve hours.
“Try to get people who are dehydrated (even those who have been vomiting) to take in fluids in the following ways: Sipping small amounts of water; drinking carbohydrate/electrolyte-containing drinks (good choices are sports drinks such as Gatorade or prepared replacement solutions such as Pedialyte); sucking on popsicles made from juices and sports drinks; sucking on ice chips, and sipping through a straw,” Web MD advises.
Naturally, they say that we should plan ahead for activities that will increase sweating, avoid exposure to the heat of the day, avoid alcohol consumption, wear light, loose fitting clothes while outdoors in the heat and break up exposure to high temperatures by finding shade or a nice air-conditioned room.
And, don’t forget to take a bottle of water with you when you go for a short hike!
Kathy Hubbard is a member of Bonner General Health Foundation Advisory Council. She can be reached at 264-4029 or firstname.lastname@example.org.