A person's desire to be outdoors can sometimes be at odds with the outdoors itself. The dead of winter tends to be a time of year when people know to stay indoors, but the dog days of summer can be dangerous as well.
Heat-related diseases like dehydration can put lives at risk. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine, children and people over the age of 60 are particularly susceptible to dehydration. Understanding dehydration and how to prevent it is essential for anyone who plans to spend time outside during the summer.
What is dehydration?
The U.S. National Library of Medicine notes that a dehydrated body does not have enough fluid and electrolytes to work properly. On an average day, the human body needs about three quarts of water. But the USNLM notes that anyone planning to spend time outside in the hot sun needs significantly more water than that to avoid dehydration.
What are the signs of dehydration?
Johns Hopkins Medicine notes that people experience dehydration differently. However, there are some common symptoms that indicate someone is dehydrated. These symptoms include:
- less frequent urination,
- dry skin,
- confusion, and
- dry mouth and mucous membranes,
- increased heart rate and breathing.
Children who are dehydrated may exhibit additional symptoms, including dry mouth and tongue; no tears and crying; no wet diapers for several hours; sunken abdomen, eyes or cheeks; listlessness; irritability; and skin that does not flatten when pinched and released.
How to prevent dehydration
Drinking plenty of fluids when working or playing in the sun is one way to prevent dehydration. Being sure to take in more fluid than you are losing is another way to prevent dehydration. Anyone, and especially people who sweat a lot, should keep a close eye on fluid loss when spending time outdoors in the summer. Sports drinks that help people maintain their electrolyte balance, such as Gatorade, can help prevent dehydration as well. Pedialyte is often recommended for sick infants or children who have experienced vomiting, as it can help restore electrolyte balance that was adversely affected when kids became sick. The solution can be equally effective at restoring electrolyte balance that was thrown off during heat exposure.
Dehydration poses a significant health risk at any time of year, but people who spend time out in the summer heat may be especially vulnerable. Limiting time spent outdoors on hot days and keeping a close eye on your fluid intake and fluid levels can help prevent dehydration.