Monday, May 20, 2013

Hydrate, and then hydrate again

Well folks, the warm weather appears to finally be upon us up here in Maine. With warm weather comes more outdoor activity and exercise, which inevitably results in more sweating. With more sweating comes a bigger need to replenish what you lose: water and electrolytes.

Upon being outside in the heat, working in the garden, walking or running or doing whatever it is you do, you might first start to experience thirst. Don't ignore this! If you start to get thirsty, chances are you are already somewhat dehydrated. Ignoring thirst may lead to dizziness and problems with cognitive brain function. Your urine will be darker in color and you will feel like you don't need to urinate all that often. Dehydration could ultimately lead to an increased risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke. Heat exhaustion symptoms include dark urine, exhaustion, increased pulse, cramps, dizziness, profuse sweating, and even fainting.

Pop quiz: Say you're with one of your friends who has ignored his or her need to hydrate themselves and they start suffering from heat exhaustion. What do you do? First, remove your pal from the heat source, preferably putting them in the shade or, better yet, an air-conditioned room. Apply a cool sponge or cloth to your bud's body. If your friend is alert, try giving them a cool, nonalcoholic beverage.

If the symptoms get worse or they don't get better within a half-hour or so, your friend may be starting to suffer from heat stroke. This is extremely dangerous! Symptoms of heat stroke include rapid, shallow breathing, no sweat even though they have hot, dry (or possibly even moist), and/or red skin, disorientation, nausea and/or vomiting, and even seizures.

The absolute first thing you want to do is to call 911. Get your buddy into the shade or an air-conditioned room and remove unnecessary clothing so you can help cool him or her down. If he or she is conscious, try to get them to sip four ounces of water every fifteen minutes or so.

There are a lot of ways to prevent heat-related illnesses, including staying indoors when there is a high heat index, wearing light, loose-fitting clothing, and by drinking plenty of water!

According the the National Academy of Sports Medicine, people should drink a minimum of approximately 96 ounces (3 quarts) of water per day. This is an average approximation, people. In hotter weather, drink more than this. Athletes should be drinking 20-40 ounces of water for every hour they are exercising, and only water should be consumed when exercising for less than an hour (for more than an hour, electrolyte-replacing sports drinks will do the trick).

So summer is just about upon us, friends. As soon as you get done reading this, do me a favor: Go get a big glass of water and drink it. All of it... because you need it, trust me!

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