Summer is hot and the hot days of summer often involve long periods of time outside in the sun and heat. Before heading out for another long day of fun and play in the heat make sure to protect yourself against the dangers of dehydration. Some things that put you at risk for dehydration include prolonged exposure to high temperatures, direct sunlight, and/or high humidity, without sufficient rest and fluids. Your body becomes dehydrated when you lose more body fluid from sweating or urinating than you take in from drinking. Signs of dehydration include dry lips and tongue, thirst, fatigue or lack of energy, low or no urine output, and feeling overheated among other things. Thirst, however, is a sign you’ve waited too long to take your next sip of water or sports drink as it usually means you’re already slightly dehydrated. Dehydration increases the risk of other heat illnesses because it interrupts the body’s ability to regulate its temperature. If left untreated dehydration can lead to heat cramps (painful cramps in the abdominals, arms or legs), heat exhaustion (dizziness, nausea, vomiting, headaches), or heat stroke (temp. of 104 or higher, severe symptoms include vomiting, lack of sweating, disorientation, shortness of breath, unconsciousness).
Both heat exhaustion and heat stroke require immediate care. Heat stroke is a medical emergency that, when untreated, can be deadly. Any child with heat stroke should be rushed to the nearest hospital. If you want to prevent dehydration (who doesn’t?) make sure to drink cool water and sports drinks early and don’t wait until you’re parched. Take regular breaks to drink fluids even if you aren’t thirsty. Dehydration is cumulative so if you’re slightly dehydrated one day from not drinking enough fluids and do the same the next day, you’re compounding a gradually developing problem. Another good idea is acclimating to the hotter weather and not exercising beyond your current level of fitness. If you typically run slowly in the cool early morning and decide to set a new 5k record in the middle of the day in June, you’re going to have a bad time. Your body isn’t used to that kind of heat and humidity. If you suspect you’re dehydrated, move to a cool, shady area and drink plenty of water or sports drink. If you do not feel better soon, go visit your doctor. If you are unconscious or unresponsive, have someone take you to see a doctor right away.