Don’t Wait, Hydrate!

Original Image by Ineke Huizing via Flickr
Original Image by Ineke Huizing via Flickr

By: Nikki Nies

To follow-up on my last post, I have no doubt I was mildly dehydrated throughout my trip to Thailand. Not only was it extremely hot, but the humidity made it worse. The best solution for dehydration is to drink water. However, we were not always guaranteed access to toilets. We took many bus rides, often lasting at least 4 hours, without stopping. Also, there were a couple of times that there were restrooms available, but locked.

I know it wasn’t the best situation, not drinking water, but the thought of not getting to a bathroom trumped my fear of dehydration. If I were to do it over again, I would’ve consumed more water and dealt with the consequences of finding a toilet if it came to that.

Water’s an essential nutrient with one’s body composed of 75% of it. Even with that statistic known, water’s considerably undervalued. How much water do you drink on a daily basis? Is it the recommended 6-8 cups? Are you sure? Dehydration’s when input of water is less than output causing one’s body to “dry out.”

Potential causes of dehydration:

  • Too busy or “forget” to drink water
  • Sick
  • Do not have access to drinkable water because of traveling, hiking and/or camping
  • Fever
  • Increased urine output
  • Excessive sweating
  • Diarrhea and vomiting
  • Blood loss

There are several levels of severity of dehydration and it would be beneficial to know the symptoms and to check the status of your health.

Mild to moderate dehydration Severe dehydration Call doctor if…
Dry, sticky mouth Extreme thirst Bloody stool
Sleepiness Extreme fusiness/sleepiness in infants Can’t keep fluids down
Thirst Confusion and/or irritability in adults Develops severe diarrhea with fever and/or vomiting
Decrease urine output Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes Irritable or disoriented
Few or no tears when crying Lack of sweating Less active than usual
Dry skin Little or no urination
Constipation Sunken eyes
Dizziness or lightheadedness Low blood pressure
Shriveled or dry skin that lacks elasticity—doesn’t “bounce” back
In infants—sunken fontanels—soft spot on top of baby’s head
Rapid heartbeat
Rapid breathing
No tears when crying
Delirium or unconsciousness
Organs start to shut down

Treatment for dehydration:

  • In mild cases
    • Stop activity and rest
    • Get into shaded area and lie down, if possible
    • Prop up feet
    • Remove any unnecessary clothes (layers)
    • Rehydrate with 2 quarts of water and/or sports drinks within next 2-4 hours
    • Rest for next couple days
    • In extreme cases, intravenous will be given to rehydrate

If dehydration is left untreated, it can cause further complications, such as the swelling of brain—cerebral edema, seizures, heat injury, kidney failure, low blood volume shock, coma and death. When 10% of one’s body has fluid loss, it is a medical emergency and one needs to be seen by a physician immediately.

Tips to alleviate dehydration:

Unfortunately, your body may not always “tell” you you’re thirsty, so monitoring how much one’s drinking can lessen the chance of dehydration if drinking regularly. Also, checking the color of one’s urine is a good indicator—clear or light colored means well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber is usually indicative of dehydration.


**When exercising, it’s even more important to make sure one’s staying hydrated before, during and after activities when possible. Dehydration is a life threatening disease if not treated when mild symptoms occur.

Photo Credit: Synergy Athletics and Pocarisweat


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