The sun is shining, the kids are out of school, and the neighborhood is buzzing with activity. It is summertime and that means some reminders about health and safety. There are many hazards that the summer sun can bring but one of the most common, and most commonly overlooked, is hydration.
Part of the reason dehydration is so confusing is because of the facts and figures that people often cite when discussing the issue. They can be hard to decipher, understand, and even live up to. As of 2013 it was estimated that nearly 75% of people are chronically dehydrated. There are so many recommendations about how much water an individual should consume a day that confusion is very common. On top of that, many people eschew water for sugary sodas and other beverages that don’t provide the same hydrating properties as good old fashioned H20.
While drinking eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day has long been the standard it isn’t based on much more than an easy memory tool and a rough estimate of professional recommendations. The Mayo Clinic recommends 13 cups of water for men and nine cups of water for women per day. Of course, the issue isn’t exactly that cut and dry. There are many factors that may require people to drink more such as exercise, hot and humid weather, or pregnancy.
The best way to determine if you’re getting enough water each day is to monitor your urine. This easy color test can give you an idea if you need to up your intake at any point. Ideally, your urine should be a very pale yellow. Dark urine could indicate not only dehydration but other more concerning medical problems.
Dehydration is a real concern for far too many people. Remaining chronically under-hydrated can lead to long-term medical problems if not addressed. Heat exhaustion and heat stroke are very real possibilities especially for dehydrated individuals who are engaging in physical activity. It can also cause brain swelling, seizures, low blood volume shock, kidney failure, and death.
Patients dealing with the effects of a variety of chronic pain conditions should monitor their fluid intake and discuss the proper, healthy amounts of water with their doctors. Some chronic pain conditions can be exacerbated by dehydration.
How to spot signs of dehydration and heat sickness
The best way to avoid dehydration during these hot summer months is to know what to look out for and intervene at the slightest signs of distress. Here are some of the ways you can spot signs of dehydration and heat sickness in yourself or others.
- Dry mouth: This can occur for a number of reasons but the most common is a lack of hydration. If your mouth feels sticky and you’re not producing enough natural lubricating fluids it is probably time to up the water intake.
- Fatigue: Excessive tiredness is also a sign of dehydration. This is very visible in children who tend to have a lot of energy to burn off during a sunny day outside. If they are tired during the day for no reason you might want to be concerned.
- Thirst: For years, experts have suggested that by the time your body is thirsty you’re already dehydrated. It is best not to let yourself feel thirsty but if you do, drink water immediately. If the water doesn’t satiate the thirst you may have extreme dehydration.
- Low urine volume: Far too many people actually look at visits to the toilet as an inconvenience. They may avoid drinking fluids so they can skip going to the bathroom during a busy day. This is very dangerous behavior. If you are unable to produce enough urine, you are dehydrated.
- Dry skin: Dry and flaky skin is common any time of year and it means your skin isn’t moisturized enough. Proper hydration is important to maintain good skin health. If lotion isn’t helping, you may need more water.
- Headache: Head pain can be a clear indicator of dehydration or heat sickness. If you’re feeling a little achy, try to drink more water and you may actually prevent it from becoming a full-blown headache.
- Dizziness and fainting: If you feel light-headed or faint when you’re hot this may be a sign of dehydration. Sit down, drink water, and see if the feeling passes. Otherwise, you may need to head to the ER.
- Fever or high body temperature: If you have no other symptoms of sickness that typically causes a fever but your body temperature is higher than average, you should seek medical attention immediately.
- Delirium: Some people, when faced with extreme dehydration or heat stroke, may experience hallucinations. If you see this in others, take immediate medical action.
If someone is extremely dehydrated they may need medical intervention to recover. They can be given intravenous fluids to help hydrate the body faster and in a way that won’t upset the stomach.
Add flavor to your water
Many people don’t stay hydrated enough because they don’t like the taste of water. They may turn to sodas or juice instead which, while they have water content, are not as hydrating as plain water.
If you are turned off by boring water you can enhance it by creating infusions. Common additions to water are berries, citrus fruit, or refreshing cucumber. You can add these directly to the water or freeze them in ice cubes to add to a glass or bottle on the go. Some people also prefer sparking or bubbling water over still water.
Issues of water safety
While hydration is one of the biggest concerns when it comes to summer safety and water, there are others to keep in mind as well. It is important to be cautious around water in other aspects of your recreation and home life. Unintentional drowning is ranked fifth among accidental deaths in the United States. Here are some quick tips to make sure you and your children stay safe this summer.
- Learn to swim
- Put up fences or safety barriers around pools
- Supervise children in or around water
- Don’t consume excessive alcohol when near water
How will you stay hydrated and safe this summer?
Image by Pink Sherbet Photography via Flickr