Summer is the perfect time to get outdoors and soak up the sun. Unfortunately, if the proper precautions aren’t taken, you could become dehydrated. Follow these tips and watch out for dehydration symptoms so you can enjoy your summer safely.
What Is Dehydration?
Water accounts for about 60 percent of an adult human’s body, and water is an extremely important part of the body’s everyday functions. Humans routinely lose water when breathing, sweating and urinating.
Because of this constant water loss, humans need to drink a significant amount of water to stay healthy. If the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being imbibed, a person will experience dehydration.
Many routine body functions cause water loss, and the effect is often worsened by illness or warm environments. The following situations often lead to dehydration:
- Diarrhea: Increased water loss during a bowel movement causes a significant decrease in water levels if left untreated.
- Vomiting: Constant vomiting could cause serious fluid loss.
- Excess sweating: Intense workouts and time in the heat can increase sweat production, resulting in a significant amount of water loss.
- Diabetes: Elevated blood sugar levels cause sugar to enter the urine. Water then follows, causing frequent urination, excessive thirst and potentially dehydration.
- Burns: Human skin regulates fluid and body temperature. When burned, victims can become dehydrated because water seeps into the damaged skin from inside the body.
The body initially responds to dehydration by decreasing urine output to conserve water and sending thirst signals from the brain. If dehydration persists, the urine will become more concentrated with urea and appear more yellow. As water loss increases, more symptoms arise, including:
- Increased thirst
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
- Cessation of tear and sweat production
In the final stages of dehydration, the body will experience confusion and weakness as the body’s organs receive less blood. Coma and organ failure will occur if dehydration goes untreated.
Extended periods of dehydration can lead to serious health complications, including heat injury, urinary and kidney problems, seizures and hypovolemic shock.
Early signs of dehydration can be treated at home through changes in diet and medications. People experiencing vomiting and diarrhea, for example, can alter their diet and use medications to control their symptoms.
For more advanced dehydration, fluid replacement is the preferred treatment. If oral rehydration does not take immediately or isn’t possible due to illness or injury, an intravenous fluid (IV) may be necessary. When reattempting oral rehydration, clear liquids should be used. Acceptable liquids include:
- Clear broth
- Fluids containing electrolytes
Individuals experiencing significant dehydration should be taken to a hospital or emergency care facility as soon as possible to begin proper rehydrating.
The easiest way to prevent dehydration is to make sure you always have plenty of water with you, especially when spending time outdoors. Checking weather forecasts for high heat index days helps as well. On days when temperatures are high, it’s best to avoid exercise and outdoor exposure.
Something many people don’t consider is the danger of consuming alcohol on hot days. Alcohol consumption increases water loss while simultaneously impairing your ability to recognize the early signs of dehydration.
If you must be outdoors on high-temperature days, wear light-colored and loose-fitting clothing, drink plenty of water and carry a personal fan or mister to keep yourself cool.
Keep in mind that seniors and young children are most at risk of dehydration. Ensure that incapacitated or impaired individuals are provided adequate fluids and assist them when needed. If you have an elderly loved one, ensure someone can check on them in their homes, as they are especially vulnerable during a heat wave.
Choose Complete Care for Your Medical Needs
Each of Complete Care’s free-standing ER facilities is fully equipped to treat patients of all ages 24/7. We treat both major and minor emergencies, including:
- Abdominal pain
- Allergic reactions
- Heart attacks
- And much more
In an emergency, call or visit one of our many locations in Texas or Colorado Springs. Visit our locations page to find the Complete Care facility nearest you.