Summer and Thirst: Tips to Recognize and Prevent Dehydration

200401674-001Even camels can die from dehydration—those humps are filled with fat, not water. But you don’t have to exist in a desert to be vulnerable to the symptoms and effects of dehydration, especially during the summer when increased activity and high temperatures team up.

Calvin Bell, MD, medical director for Memorial ExpressCare, explains that dehydration occurs when the body’s loss of water is in excess of what one takes in. This can be caused by extreme hot or cold environments, increased activities, alcoholic beverages, fever, diarrhea and even some medications, including those for blood pressure or diabetes.

You can prevent dehydration by being proactive, especially during the summer.

“Oral hydration is a must before, during and after physical exertion,” Dr. Bell says. “Be sure to drink water or oral rehydration solutions, like Gatorade, 30 minutes before beginning physical activity and then at 15- to 20-minute intervals during physical activity.”

Dr. Bell also recommends talking with your healthcare provider ahead of time to determine if specific medications can lead to dehydration. Even if not engaged in physical activities, efforts should be made to remain well hydrated by drinking water or rehydration solutions. Thirst is not an indicator of dehydration because if you are thirsty, you are probably already mildly dehydrated.

Symptoms of mild or moderate dehydration include:

  • Increased thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Dizziness
  • Tiredness or weakness
  • Slightly dark urine
  • Headache
  • Dry skin
  • Lack of tears

Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • Markedly decreased amount of and darker colored urine
  • Worsening dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Inability to stand or walk
  • Confusion
  • Marked sleepiness
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Coma and shock, in worst cases, which could end in death

How to treat mild to moderate dehydration:

  • Move the individual to an indoor place, away from extremes of temperature.
  • Lay them down.
  • Stop all exertion and allow them to drink water or oral rehydration fluids such as Gatorade.

Recovery should be prompt, but if symptoms of mild dehydration persist, or if there is vomiting, development of confusion, inability to walk or slurred speech, call 911 and seek professional assistance.