When the temperatures rise in summer, your body keeps you cool by sweating. Unfortunately, this depletes your body’s stores of water, which your body needs to stay healthy. If you lose too much water, you run the risk of becoming dehydrated.
Dehydration is a very common danger in summer as people spend long periods of time outside in the heat. It has the capability of causing disruptions in almost every bodily function, and it can even be fatal if it’s allowed to progress for too long.
In order to stay safe and healthy all summer, here’s what you should know about dehydration.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration
When your body doesn’t have enough water or electrolytes (necessary minerals that hold an electric charge), it has a more difficult time maintaining fluid levels and carrying out normal bodily functions.
Dehydration can have some frustrating symptoms to manage, especially when you want to be outside enjoying the weather. At best, you’re likely to feel somewhat uncomfortable, experiencing a headache, dry mouth or fatigue. At worst, your body could begin to stop functioning properly and you could become very sick.
Thirst is actually the first sign of mild dehydration. When you feel thirsty, it’s a sign that your body really needs something. You should try to drink before you feel thirsty to prevent dehydration from progressing.
Some other signs of mild dehydration may include:
- Dry mouth
- Dark-colored urine
Some signs of moderate or severe dehydration include:
- Brain fog and confusion
- Heat intolerance
- Low blood pressure
In addition to the above-mentioned symptoms and side effects, dehydration also increases your risk for much more serious complications.
Because dehydration reduces your body’s ability to regulate its internal temperature, the condition can lead to heat injury, which can take the form of heat cramps or even potentially fatal heatstroke. It can also potentially lead to muscle cramps and even seizures, due to a loss of electrolytes, which carry electrical signals throughout the body.
If you get dehydrated repeatedly or for too long, you may even develop kidney or urinary tract problems, such as urinary tract infections or kidney stones.
Severe dehydration may require professional medical care and can even be fatal in some cases, especially if it occurs in infants or young children. You may require intravenous (IV) fluids to properly rehydrate you in the hospital.
The first and most important way to combat hydration is to drink lots of water. It’s important to drink water throughout the day, regardless of whether you are outdoors or indoors.
Do not wait until you feel thirsty to drink. Often, dehydration is already occurring by the time you start to feel thirsty. Combat this by making a point to sip water every 20 minutes or so.
To know if you’re drinking enough water, monitor the color of your urine. If you are sufficiently hydrated, your urine should be pale yellow or even almost clear.
Other beverages and even foods can fill your body with water, as well. Vegetables and fruits carry a large portion of water and can help hydrate you while you’re snacking throughout the day. Fruit juices with no added sugar can help you rehydrate, too, but it’s best to stick with water. Avoid grabbing sodas and other sugar-filled beverages.
Drinking certain types of sports drinks can help replenish your electrolytes in addition to water, as well. Electrolytes, like potassium and sodium, are lost through perspiration just like water and are necessary for optimal bodily performance.
If you plan to be outside for the majority of the day or are engaging in a lot of physical activity in the summer, avoid drinking caffeine and alcohol. These beverages can dehydrate you even more and exacerbate dehydration problems.
Stay smart this summer
Combine hydration tips with smart summer action to ensure that your body stays cool and hydrated the entire time you’re outside. Avoid wearing dark-colored clothing, sit in the shade and take breaks inside to cool off if you’re feeling a little too hot. Make sure you’re drinking during these breaks, as well.
This gives your body the opportunity to work less hard to cool you down, reducing the amount of fluids you’re losing and keeping you properly hydrated.
With careful attention to how much water you’re drinking each day and how you can help reduce your temperature and stay cool, you’ll be ready for a full summer of fun without the dangers of dehydration.