Dehydration can occur from illnesses and serious wounds over which we have no control, but it can also occur simply from an accidental lack of diligence in regards to proper drinking habits. When too many fluids leave the body (be they sweat, spit, urine, diarrhea, or pus) and not enough are put into it, an imbalance occurs that can cause symptoms from the mildly uncomfortable to the extreme and life-threatening. In most cases, dehydration is pretty simply to keep at bay. Here’s a few helpful hints for keeping those cells hydrated.
Once dehydration sets in, thirst is a less accurate judge of severity than urine color, which becomes darker as the body becomes less hydrated. However, during periods of normal activity, thirst will guide you well enough in how much fluid your body is craving. Incorporate foods that contain plenty of liquid, like fruits and veggies. If you’re one of those who tends to forget to eat and drink on busy days, make it a point to carry a bottle of water around.
Infants, young children, and the elderly are at more of a risk, and mild dehydration can turn severe much more quickly for them. Take special care of loved ones who may not be able to take care of themselves as thoroughly as everyone else. Make sure to ply them with healthy drinks and juicy foods, and watch carefully for symptoms of dehydration such as urinating less often, dry skin, sleepiness, or irritability.
Prevention During Physical Activities
When you’re exercising, don’t wait until you’re dying of thirst to start rehydrating yourself. Keep something to drink at hand the whole time. Remember that when you sweat, you’re exuding salt as well as fluid. Salt is one of the essential electrolytes in the body and helps carry electrical signals from cell to cell. Interrupting those signals can be dangerous enough to cause seizures, which is what makes sports drinks that contain electrolytes so nice. Just watch your sugar content on those, as some of them tend to be so high it will undo all your hard work. Young athletes may be most at risk, so make sure to talk to budding sports stars about the importance hydration.
If you’re going camping, hiking, or on a trip some place where you may not have a reliable water supply, be sure to think ahead. Not being able to get to clean water can bring an nasty halt to a fun event, no matter how unintentional it was. On sweltering summer days, be sure to drink more than you normally would, especially during outdoor events. Even if it’s just a barbeque and your only task is to guard the lawn chair, high temperatures still mean increased sweat. Proper hydration can help prevent dehydration complications, like heat stroke.
Prevention While Injured
Even wounds like burns and cuts can cause dehydration—they may leak blood or pus, which means less fluid in the body. Make sure to tend to any injuries promptly and properly, and drink extra fluids during such times. Illnesses are a major cause of dehydration as well. A fever messes with the body’s temperature and often causes excessive sweating, which means lost fluid and electrolytes. Frequent diarrhea causes a similar problem (although in a much different and more extreme manner), as does throwing up. Excessive vomiting also means the body doesn’t get a chance to hold in all the nutrients that are being taken in.
If you are ill, increase fluid intake dramatically, especially when experiencing flu-like symptoms. Caffeinated beverages, fruit juice, and milk can actually make symptoms worse and increase the chances of dehydration. Most importantly, if mild symptoms of dehydration start to appear, increase fluid intake immediately. In high risk populations, seek medical help before symptoms become severe.