Water for Life

By Paul Hunter

Summer is here, the kids may be heading to camp or they may stay local for a stay-cation as we DO live at one of the “Most Beautiful Beaches in the World.”  Either way, they and you will most likely be outside in the heat and want to be able to enjoy yourselves.  Spending time outside this time of year can be daunting when it comes to being prepared for the sun and the heat, so let’s take a look at how the proper amount of hydration can prepare you for more fun outdoors.  

Water is essential to life. It constitutes the medium in which chemical reactions occur and is crucial to normal function of the cardiovascular system. Water constitutes about 70% of body weight in the normal adult. It decreases from 75% at birth to 50% in old age and is the largest component of the body. Adipose tissue (fat) contains less water than lean tissue (muscle); thus, women have slightly less body water than men. The effects of dehydration occur with as little water loss as 1% of body weight and become life threatening at 10%.

The good, the bad and the ugly and not necessarily in that order:  dehydration is a loss of fluids and electrolytes (important blood salts like potassium and sodium). Vital organs like the kidneys, brain, and heart can’t function without a certain amount of fluids and electrolytes, which can be lost through sweat, urine, vomit and diarrhea.   

The good news is that dehydration is preventable even in the worst climates and weather.  How?  Here are five tips to stay ahead of the curve and set yourself up for fun days outside:

  1. Drink water, lots of water. How much? One way to keep track is the color of your urine. It is not necessary for it to be clear, but a lighter color is preferred. The darker your urine color, the more likely you are headed towards dehydration and, as stated above, it only takes as little as a 1% body weight loss.

  2. Eat foods with high water content. Fruits and vegetables are loaded with hydrating goodness in addition to vitamins and minerals to replace electrolytes lost through sweating. In addition, they will fuel you while not making you feel sluggish.

  3. Stay away from alcohol. Yes, it’s a liquid but it will increase your urination, thus increasing the likelihood of dehydration.

  4. When possible, cool yourself off in the water or stay in the shade. Keeping your core body temperature down will assist in making your outside-in-the-heat time more enjoyable and for longer.

  5. Have a water buddy. Remember the buddy system? With two or more, you can look out for each other. When someone drinks water, it’s good to remind the others to drink some as well.

Mild signs of dehydration include: 

  • Thirst

  • Dry lips

  • Slightly dry mouth membranes

Moderate signs of dehydration include:

  • Very dry mouth membranes

  • Sunken eyes

  • Skin that doesn’t bounce back quickly when lightly pinched and released

Severe signs of dehydration include:

  • All signs of moderate dehydration

  • Rapid, weak pulse (more than 100 at rest)

  • Cold hands and feet

  • Rapid breathing

  • Blue lips

  • Confusion, lethargy, difficult to arouse

Don’t let these signs of dehydration alarm you; rather, know them and prevent them and have a great time outdoors!  Make it a Great Day!