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Defend Yourself against Dehydration


Ok, my friend - let’s do a quick exercise in hydration. Now this is important, so really pay attention. Stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself this simple question: are you feeling thirsty right now? If you are, in fact, currently experiencing thirst, you may think it means you’re close to dehydration. But guess what? It’s too late . . . you are already dehydrated. Keep reading for some easy tips on how to prevent dehydration.

Ok, my friend - let’s do a quick exercise in hydration. Now this is important, so really pay attention. Stop what you’re doing, take a deep breath, and ask yourself this simple question: are you feeling thirsty right now?

If you are, in fact, currently experiencing thirst, you may think it means you’re close to dehydration. But guess what? It’s too late . . . you are already dehydrated.

Wow - that’s kind of scary! Especially when you consider that dehydration can be deadly if not addressed properly, and in a timely manner. If you’ve ever suffered from dehydration, you know it’s not fun – regardless of the severity. There are two instances of dehydration that stick out in my mind for some reason – neither was pleasant, and one was downright frightening!

My Stories
The first instance occurred after my sisters and I had biked home from softball practice in typical Minnesota summer heat and humidity (yes, it actually does get HOT in Minnesota). That day was probably around 90 degrees with a 90 percent humidity level. We were all sitting around in the house, trying to cool off a bit before going out for our daily farm chores. I remember it clearly – my older sister, Sarah, was sitting in the recliner when all of a sudden she leaned forward and vomited all over the floor. EWWWW!

Guess what? She was dehydrated, and that’s what happened as a result. Ok, now that I’ve grossed you out, here’s the second instance.

It was August 21, 2005. I had just crossed the finish-line in my first ever half-Ironman triathlon. For those of you who don’t know, a half-Ironman is a 1.2-mile swim, followed by a 56-mile bike, followed by a 13.1-mile run – without stopping. Anyway, the day was similar to the one in the story above – hot and humid. I vaguely remember crossing the finish-line and heading to the refreshment tent. But the next thing I knew, I was on a stretcher, surrounded by a doctor and other EMT-type people. Yikes! I was suffering from dehydration – and a severe case at that. Luckily I was able to recover fairly quickly, and take some pleasure in the fact that I had just spent nearly eight hours in a race – and finished it!

Not all cases of dehydration are as extreme as that, but some can be just as dangerous. Let’s take a closer look at dehydration, including ways to prevent it and treat it.

Dehydration Defined
When you are dehydrated, your body isn’t holding as much water as it needs to function properly. You can become dehydrated by not taking in as much water as you should through your diet, or through the rapid loss of water via excessive sweating, vomiting, diarrhea or fever. When you are nauseous or have otherwise lost your appetite, you tend to drink less fluid and become dehydrated as a result.

Dehydration can range in severity from mild to severe, and may result in fainting and require medical treatment. Besides feeling thirsty, people who are dehydrated often experience symptoms including dry mouth, an inability to produce tears, low urine output, dizziness, and, in severe cases, sunken eyes, low blood pressure and lethargy.

If you have become mildly dehydrated, drink small amounts of fluids at regular intervals until you start to feel better. Avoid drinking too much liquid too rapidly. Additionally, avoid liquids that act as diuretics, such as tea and coffee. Beverages with electrolytes are ideal, as they rehydrate and replenish electrolyte levels that are low in dehydrated individuals, but steer clear of some sports drinks, as they can have high sugar contents.

To avoid dehydration, try to drink at least four- 8-ounce glasses of water a day. Your needs may be higher based on your level of activity and body type.  If you are exercising, you will need more water to replace the fluids you lose through exertion and sweat.

If you live in a hot climate, be sure to drink fluids regularly throughout the day, paying special attention to periods when you are outdoors (lesson learned). The same rule applies when you are on vacation in a tropical or desert location, or during the warmer summer months.

By taking the proper precautions, you can avoid dehydration episodes like the ones that stick out in my memory. Dehydration is nothing to mess around with, so drink up!



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