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Drinking enough water each day is vital, especially in the summertime heat. Understanding dehydration and recognizing its symptoms can help you seek treatment at the first signs.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration happens when your body does not have the water it needs to function. “You need water for all sorts of processes, including balancing bodily chemicals, regulating your temperature, helping with digestion and moving oxygen throughout your body,” said Tammy Turner, D.O., Inspira Medical Group Primary Care Mantua. “When you’re dehydrated, your body doesn’t have enough water to function properly.”
Common dehydration causes include sweating, increased urination, vomiting or diarrhea. When your body loses fluids from any of these functions, you are dehydrated until you replace the fluids. Depending on the level of dehydration, it can take up to 3 days to recover. Although dehydration can happen to anyone, it is especially threatening for babies, young children and older adults.
People engaging in outdoor workouts or sports in warm temperatures are also at increased risk. Mild dehydration can occur after only a couple of hours in the sun. When engaging in cardiovascular exercises, such as running, hiking, cycling, basketball, tennis, soccer and swimming, take frequent breaks in the shade and drink water before, during and after. Plan strenuous activity for early mornings or late afternoons to avoid direct sunlight.
Signs of dehydration
If you’re dehydrated, you may experience the following physical symptoms:
- Fatigue or weakness
- Dizziness or light-headedness
- Low blood pressure accompanied by a high heart rate
- Loss of appetite
- Feeling thirsty
- Dry mouth, eyes or lips
- Dark-colored urine
- Flushed skin
- Swollen feet
- Muscle cramps
- Poor coordination
“Dehydration can also affect you mentally and emotionally,” said Dr. Turner. “In addition to the obvious physical signs, many people with dehydration experience confusion, delirium, memory loss and anxiety.”
Most mild to moderate cases of dehydration can be resolved by drinking water or an electrolyte-rich beverage such as a sports drink or coconut water. Doing so replaces electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, which get depleted when you’re dehydrated.
Severe dehydration requires immediate medical treatment. Seek help immediately if you or a loved one shows any of these symptoms:
- A temperature of 103 degrees Fahrenheit or more
- Nausea or inability to keep fluids down
- Seizures or muscle twitching
- Dizziness, fainting or loss of consciousness
- Confusion or slurred speech
The best way to avoid the effects of dehydration is by keeping your body well-hydrated at all times. “How much water your body needs depends on several factors, including weight, age and activity level,” said Dr. Turner. “Talking to your doctor can help determine how much water you should drink daily.”
Keeping track of your water intake is a great way to ensure you’re drinking enough throughout the day. It’s always a good idea to carry a water bottle with you so you’ll always have something to drink, especially during the summer.
Some beverages are better than others at keeping you hydrated. Alcoholic and caffeinated beverages are diuretics, which means they dehydrate the body by causing you to urinate more often. Instead, opt for water when you can.
Warm temperatures put us all at increased risk of dehydration, so staying hydrated is especially important in the summer. For more information on avoiding dehydration in the summer heat, contact your Inspira provider.
Inspira Health is a high reliability organization (HRO), which means safety is the top priority for patients and staff. To make an appointment, call 1-800-INSPIRA.