Summer is finally here! Time to break out the shorts and flip-flops and enjoy some fun in the sun. But while you’re basking in the warmer temperatures, don’t fall victim to dehydration.
The summer season is the time that most Americans start worrying about staying hydrated, but the truth is that it’s a year-round problem. Dehydration is a serious condition that, according to Medical Daily, affects 75% of all Americans, in all seasons.
So how can you ensure you stay hydrated? What are the signs to look out for? And most importantly, what should you do if you start experiencing symptoms? Let’s take a closer look.
Hydration: The Key to a Healthy Body
To make sure your body stays happy and fully hydrated, CBS News reports that most experts recommend drinking four to six glasses of water per day — although that’s just the bare minimum.
In truth, we desperately need water for so many reasons: it regulates body temperature, helps the brain manufacture hormones, and flushes our bodies of toxins through sweat and urination.
So what happens when we’re deprived of this essential resource? You get dehydrated, and suffer through a whole host of unpleasant symptoms.
What Is Dehydration?
The short answer: dehydration occurs when you’ve either lost a significant percentage of your body’s moisture or have not consumed enough liquids in the first place. To get a better sense of why that possibility is so dangerous, let’s dig a bit deeper.
Because water regulates your body temperature, it’s essential in preventing potentially fatal heat strokes. Consult this article from LiveScience for more detail, but essentially, heat strokes are a failure of your body’s cooling system — and it can cause severe disorientation, migraine headaches, and delirium as your body literally cooks itself.
To avoid this dangerous sort of situation, let’s take a look at the early signs of dehydration. Spotting them could be the difference between a little exhaustion and a full-on heat stroke.
What Are the Signs of Dehydration?
The symptoms of dehydration can manifest themselves in a number of different ways. Mild to moderate dehydration can cause dry mouth and a lack of saliva, headaches and dizziness, and decreased urination. And the most obvious symptom to look out for, of course, is thirst.
Severe dehydration (in other words, a medical emergency) causes sunken eyes, dry skin, increased heart rate, and even results in fainting and delirium.
How to Prevent Dehydration
The most important step in the prevention of dehydration is the most intuitive. Regularly drink plenty of fluids, though water will undoubtedly be your safest bet. While many sports and energy drinks advertise themselves as the best sources of hydration, resist the temptation to indulge in these sugary (and not particularly hydrating) beverages.
The vast majority of experts, including those at the American Heart Association, continue to recommend water as the best hydrator.
Need help tracking your water intake? Download the Nalgene app from iTunes that rewards you with Nalgene coupons as you drink more and more water (it’s also available on Android).
Also, even if you’re drinking plenty of water, think twice before you reach for a Red Bull or Pepsi. Caffeinated drinks contain a natural diuretic that helps accelerate dehydration.
How to Deal with Dehydration Symptoms
If you or a friend are exhibiting any of the signs of dehydration, get the afflicted person out of direct sunlight as soon as possible, and make sure he or she is steadily drinking plenty of water to begin restoring body fluids to normal levels.
In these cases, remember to drink water steadily, and not all at once, as taking in too much, too quickly when your body is dehydrated can induce nausea.
If you are experiencing moderate or severe symptoms as described above, seek immediate treatment at the nearest hospital’s emergency room.
If side effects linger following an episode of dehydration, or if you’re concerned that you’re getting dehydrated too easily, make an appointment with a medical professional through SingleCare.
Many people neglect to get such ailments checked out because they can’t afford more than an annual check-up, or their current health insurance plan might not cover appointments with a specialist.
But with SingleCare, you can search for affordable treatment in your area and know the cost upfront, leaving you free to pursue the care you need with the knowledge of how much it will cost.
So the next time you’re feeling light on the liquids, remember these simple steps to avoid severe dehydration and an unfortunate (and unnecessary) trip to the ER.
(Main image credit: Darwin Bell/flickr)