Tuesday, September 1, 2020

Although fall is just around the corner, it still feels like summer outside and with hot temperatures comes a higher risk for dehydration — the loss of more fluid than you take in. Your body also needs more water when you are physically active or sick, especially with a fever or stomach illness.

Signs of dehydration

Since many people do not feel thirsty until they are already dehydrated, it’s important to increase water consumption when you are feeling sick or during hot weather, especially if you are participating in outdoor activities.

Water is essential to keeping your temperature normal, keeping your joints lubricated, protecting your spinal cord, ensuring clear thinking and getting rid of waste when you sweat or go to the bathroom.Common signs of dehydration by age include:

Babies and young children:

  • No tears when crying
  • Fewer wet diapers
  • Dry tongue and mouth
  • Increased irritability

Adults:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Reduced urination and/or urine that is dark in color
  • Increased tiredness
  • Confusion
  • Dizziness

What to do if you’re dehydrated

The amount of water you should consume each day depends on your overall health, activity levels and where you live.

Drinking more fluids like water and electrolyte replacement drinks, such as Gatorade or Pedialyte, should resolve most mild or moderate cases of dehydration. An electrolyte replacement drink is important because drinking too much water can deplete sodium levels. Avoid drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages in hot temperatures since they can also lead to dehydration.

In cases of severe dehydration, you may need to see a doctor or visit an emergency room. Signs of severe dehydration include:

  • Inability to keep fluids down
  • Diarrhea for 24 hours or more
  • Bloody or black stool
  • Disorientation
  • Increased irritability and/or feelings of tiredness

 About heat-related illnesses

 If you are participating in outdoor activities, you may be at risk for developing the following heat-related illnesses.

Heat-related cramps: Heat-related cramps are pains and spasms in the muscles of the abdomen or legs often caused by a reduction in sodium levels and a loss of fluids in the body. Cramps can occur when a person sweats heavily, which reduces the amount of sodium in the blood.

  • Heat exhaustion: Heat exhaustion often occurs due to overheating and a loss in electrolytes caused by sweating. Heat exhaustion warning signs include dizziness, heat cramps, headaches, vomiting, nausea, weakness, exhaustion, flushed skin and heavy sweating.
  • Heat stroke: This is a life-threatening medical emergency. Heat stroke occurs when the body is unable to cool itself. In addition to the signs of heat exhaustion, other signs of heat stroke include confusion; high body temperature; increased heart rates and breathing rates; and difficulty speaking and/or answering questions. You may also stop sweating. Call 9-1-1 if someone shows signs of heat stroke.

 Tips for avoiding heat-related illnesses:

  • Drink plenty of fluids. Try to drink a glass of water with each meal and between meals; before, during and after exercise; and if you are feeling hungry (thirst may be confused with feelings of hunger).
  • Exercise inside whenever possible.
  • Make sure to stretch well before exercising to avoid muscle cramps. Ice your muscles if cramps develop.
  • Avoid being outside during the hottest times of the day. Instead, schedule outdoor activities early in the morning or in the evening.
  • Stay in the shade as much as possible to avoid extreme heat and sun damage.
  • Take frequent breaks to hydrate and stretch.
  • Exercise with another person so you can monitor each other for warning signs of a heat-related illness.
  • If you experience signs of heat exhaustion, use a fan, spray bottle, wet cloth or ice pack to cool off. You can also sit in a kiddie pool filled with water.
  • Do not leave kids, pets or adults with limited mobility unattended in a car. Without the use of air conditioning, cars can heat up quickly when left in the sun anytime during the year, possibly leading to heat-related illnesses or death.

Norman Regional Health System remains committed to your health. Learn more about our telemedicine offerings and stay up-to-date on Norman Regional’s COVID-19 response efforts, which includes details on what to do if you think you may have COVID-19.