What Is Dehydration? What Are The Symptoms And How Can You Prevent It?

I really can’t stand very hot weather. Maybe it’s my Los Angeles, coastal origins, but anything over 85 degrees is torturous for me. Even after nearly five years of living on the east coast for pretty large stretches of time, I still can’t get used to the humidity that plagues the summer months. Mix that with a lot of walking and not enough water, it’s pretty surprising that I haven’t suffered from dehydration yet.

But what exactly is dehydration? You’re probably thinking, “Duh, it’s when you don’t have enough water in your body.” Well, yes, but it’s a little more complicated than that and much more serious than getting a little thirsty.

Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than it has taken in. When this happens your body gets a little out of whack because it can’t properly perform its normal functions.

Excessive sweating, especially on a hot day, is just one cause of dehydration. You can also become dehydrated when you have a fever, decreased urination or if you’re suffering from diarrhea or vomiting.

Dehydration symptoms range from mild to severe. Mild symptoms include thirst, dry mouth, headache, dizziness, fatigue, heart palpitations, and constipation. Severe symptoms are essentially all of the aforementioned but taken up a notch and accompanied by a fever above 100 degrees, fainting, difficulty breathing and chest or abdominal pains. Additionally, it’s important to note the color of your urine. If it is a dark yellow, like an amber, you might be dehydrated.

Curing mild dehydration is pretty straight forward. Drinking water or sucking on ice cubes or Popsicles can help replenish your body with vital fluids. Also, drinks that include electrolytes and carbohydrates like Gatorade or Powerade are really useful because they give you a boost of energy and can help you become hydrated faster. Avoid caffeinated beverages like coffee or soda, however, because they’ll just make you even more dehydrated.

More severe cases of dehydration require medical attention ASAP. Usually, someone who is severely dehydrated will receive fluids through an IV hooked up so that they can become hydrated faster. If left unattended, someone who is severely dehydrated can suffer from kidney damage, seizures, heatstroke, and even coma or death. So this is definitely not just a case of drinking a little water and moving on.

You can prevent dehydration in a few easy ways. Drink more water when it’s hot out and when you’re exercising. Eat foods that have a high water content like most fruits and vegetables. If you’re suffering from any symptoms of dehydration on a hot day, loosen your clothing and chill out–no pun intended–in an air conditioned space; fans and misters can also help you out. If you’re outside make sure you are in a shaded area. Also, contrary to popular belief, dousing yourself in ice cold water or holding an ice pack to your skin will not help you out. Sure, it’ll feel good, but the extreme cold will only shrink your blood vessels and make it more difficult for your body to release heat.

If you take anything away from this, just remember to drink water, water and more water. Your body will thank you!

 

Have you ever been dehydrated? How do you deal with the summer heat? Tell us in the comments!

 

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