WELL BEING: Dehydration

3 Jul

“Water is a life-sustaining beverage.. Every organ in the body needs water.”  Leslie Bonci, Registered Dietician

We all know how important it is to drink plenty of water when the temperatures go up but for those of us in East Texas, we endure a special kind of heat during the Summer months.  When it’s 95 degrees here, it often feels like 105 degrees due to the heat index, not to mention the high toll that humidity plays on wringing out our electrolytes and slowing us down energetically.

This time last year, I spent a few weeks in Ruidosa, New Mexico.  I was so surprised that I didn’t notice the heat as much due to the low humidity.  I actually got more dehydrated there since I was unaccustomed to the easy cool feeling of very low humidity and the cool mountain air.

So whether you are in an area with high or low humidity, be sure to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated in this Summer heat.

We’ve all heard that we need to drink at least 8 eight-ounce glasses of water each day, but that’s an average.  Depending on your age, weight & height, you may need a little more water than that or a little less.  In any case, be sure to drink several glasses of water each day and remember that your intake may also include water from your food and beverages.

Dehydration occurs when the body is losing more water than it is replacing.  As the body loses water it begins to take action to preserve water and balance blood pressure. To do this, it stops letting water flow to the bladder and through the intestines while taking water from the cells and putting it out into the bloodstream. While this is a good short-term solution, if left unchecked it can lead to some serious health complications.

We may be using more water than we are taking in for a number of reasons.  One of the primary reasons I see dehydrated clients is that they have forgotten to drink enough water.  It may be helpful to put a fresh glass of water on your desk or in your workspace so that you remember to drink throughout the day.

I love to make a pitcher of fresh lemonade or light mint tea and keep it close by.  I am much more likely to stay hydrated when I practice this little act of preparedness.

Besides forgetting to drink water, we may be working or playing out in the heat and losing more water than we are replenishing.  We may have had a stomach virus that robbed us of precious electrolytes and left us water deprived.  Fever is also a major culprit of dehydration.  So keep a close watch on how thirsty you feel and respond by drinking as often as you like.

Symptoms of early or mild dehydration include: 

  • flushed face
  • extreme thirst, more than normal or unable to drink
  • dry, warm skin
  • cannot pass urine or reduced amounts, dark, yellow
  • dizziness made worse when you are standing
  • weakness
  • cramping in the arms and legs
  • crying with few or no tears
  • sleepy or irritable
  • unwell
  • headaches
  • dry mouth, dry tongue; with thick saliva.

In severe dehydration, these effects become more pronounced and the patient may develop shock, including: diminished consciousness, lack of urine output, cool moist extremities, a rapid and feeble pulse. Re-hydration must follow shortly or death can result.  Consult your physician or dial 911.

Symptoms of moderate to severe dehydration include: 

  • low blood pressure
  • fainting
  • severe muscle contractions in the arms, legs, stomach and back
  • convulsions
  • bloated stomach
  • heart failure
  • sunken dry eyes, with few or no tears
  • skin loses its firmness and looks wrinkled
  • lack of elasticity of the skin
  • rapid and deep breathing – faster than normal
  • fast, weak pulse

Send questions and comments to lynnvannoy@gmail.com or visit http://www.lynnvannoy.com

The information in this column is not intended as medical advice. Its intention is solely informational and educational.

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