Preventing Dehydration

Published: September 08, 2014

Though the waning days of summer are here, the weather has recently presented us with hotter and steamier days than July or August.  Kids are returning to school and beginning their athletic routines while adults eager to get back in their routines are picking up their exercise rituals that they may have laid down in favor of lazy days at the beach and barbecuing in the back yard.  So it's not too late to talk about how to protect you and your loved ones from "volume depletion" as the medical professionals call it, better known as "dehydration." 

Dehydration will be more likely in the setting of vigorous exercise or illness that is marked by high fever, vomiting, and diarrhea.  Early symptoms of dehydration include fatigue, thirst, and dizziness when moving to a standing from sitting position.  Severe symptoms are headache, confusion, chest and abdominal pain, decreased to no urination (and urine may appear more concentrated than usual), and being too dizzy to stand, or even fainting.  Severe hydration is an indication to seek medical attention as soon as possible.

The best way to protect yourself from dehydration is to consider what you're about to do:  for example, if you're going to mow the lawn while the sun is high and there's little shade, take some protective action.  Drink water before you begin, and as you start to sweat, keep drinking. Try to stay ahead of feeling thirsty.  When I go to spin class, the instructor shouts out at appropriate intervals, "drink as you need," which is a reminder for me to take a generous swig of my ever present bottle of water.  But we're not always lucky enough to have someone reminding us, so you'll need to do that for yourself and your loved ones.   Obviously, take caution if you get sick – and be sure to take in plenty of fluids if you can.  If severe vomiting precludes being able to take in water, this may be another indication to seek medical attention.

Although the old adage tells us to “drink eight glasses of water a day,” it's not clear what we actually need.  The Institute of Medicine recommends about 13 cups of liquids a day for men and 9 cups of liquids for women.  Remember that all beverages count -- even coffee for those of you who can’t imagine morning sans caffeine.  Enjoy the last bits of summer, stay hydrated, and stay healthy!

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