Water, Water Everywhere: Better Take a Drink
by Mommy MD Guide Jennifer Hanes, DO
Does the summer heat have you feeling tired and drained? Worried if your kids are drinking enough water to last through outdoor practice? Dehydration can cause nausea, vomiting, constipation, fatigue, muscle cramps, and even life-threatening seizures and altered mental states. Good news: There are many ways to help survive this warm spell and lessen your risk of dehydration while boosting your energy.
Our bodies lose a lot of water not only through sweat, but also through our respirations and bodily functions. It is very important to drink a lot more fluids in the summertime, even if you are mostly indoors. Water is usually best way to replenish fluid, but if you are outside a lot, then alternating that water with a sports drink can be beneficial. Unless patients are on a fluid or sodium restricted diet for specific reasons, I encourage the use of salt on food to help the body retain water and other electrolytes more efficiently.
Can you be dehydrated and not be thirsty? Yes! Our thirst mechanism does not register until we are 3 to 5 percent dehydrated. Additionally, many prescription medications blunt this response and/or make the body more susceptible to the effects of heat. Thus, relying on thirst is a poor indicator of your hydration status.
The easy answer is to monitor your urine. When well hydrated, it should be almost clear. If it is colored enough to make your toilet water appear yellow, you need to drink more water. (Some multivitamins can also affect the hue, but this usually appears an almost fluorescent yellow, which is different from the yellow urine of dehydration.) But what about those people work outdoors frequently or the parents of young athletes? There is actually a more objective way to measure the hydration status that is beneficial in summer sports programs. Good hydration becomes imperative in outdoor sports training because an athlete can lose up to two pounds of water through sweat each hour. The way to monitor is to perform a pre- and post-workout weigh-in. It is best to wear minimal clothing that is dry so the sweat in the clothing is not be measured. If the difference in the pre- and post-workout weight is more than 3 percent of the total body weight, a dramatic change in hydration needs to be made.
Here is an example:
Pre-workout weight = 170 pounds. Post-workout weight = 166 pounds.
170-166 = 4 pounds. 4/170 = 0.023 or 2.3% this is an acceptable loss
If the athlete loses 6 pounds instead it becomes too much for that body weight.
170-164 = 6 pounds 6/170 = 0.035 or 3.5%
Should you or your loved one fall into the second category, a concentrated effort on hydration should be made. Here are some hydration tips.
- Keep water or sports drinks on hand at all times in the hot months.
- Keep half-filled bottles in the freezer and then top off when ready to leave the house. The ice keeps it cold so you have a cool beverage that lasts longer.
- Reduce your intake of caffeine and alcohol. Both of these are diuretics, meaning they cause you to lose more water. Best to limit them in the summer months.
- Keep a misting fan on hand for cooling off quickly.
If anyone begins to experience nausea, excess fatigue, dizziness, confusion or seizures, you need to call 911. While waiting for the paramedics, lie them down in a cool area, preferable in air conditioning. If you are outdoors, at the least find a shaded area. Remove excess clothing like socks and shoes. It is usually best to AVOID placing ice packs on them. Ice will constrict the blood vessels near the skin due to the extreme cold preventing the release of their core heat. Instead, DO splash cold water on their body and use a fan. Evaporation is the best way to safely cool people. If the patient is alert and able to speak clearly and sit up, then drinking a beverage with sugar, like juice or sports drinks, is helpful. Medications for fevers do NOT help with heat sickness, so best to avoid those as well.
Stay hydrated and think of the heat as nature’s free detox sauna, it will help you enjoy the summer!
Bio: Dr. Jennifer Hanes is a board certified emergency and forensic physician in Austin, Texas. She shares her motherhood journey through the Mommy MD Guides. She has lost 70 pounds and outlines those secrets in her eBook, Lady In Weighting. You can learn more at www.DrHanes.com.