5 Things You Need to Know About Dehydration

Desert athlete

The sun is out, the tem­per­a­ture is ris­ing, and the days are deli­cious­ly long. This time of year, Moth­er Nature is prac­ti­cal­ly forc­ing you to stop what­ev­er you’re doing to spend a lit­tle time out­side. And you should. These sum­mer days won’t last for­ev­er. But before you head out­doors, make sure that you’re pre­pared for what­ev­er adven­tures lie ahead. This time of year in par­tic­u­lar, it’s a good idea to brush up on all things dehydration.

Dehy­dra­tion Defined
It’s sim­ple: When you’re los­ing more water than you’re tak­ing in, you’re at risk for dehy­dra­tion. Con­sid­er this: just going for a walk at a decent pace in the sun can cause you to sweat out 16 ounces of flu­id in an hour—that’s equiv­a­lent to a pound of water. 

Watch for Symp­tomsFatigue
The signs of dehy­dra­tion can be mild or severe. You might feel thirsty, light­head­ed, and a lit­tle dizzy. Some­times, your mouth will dry out and your tongue will swell. Pro­gressed cas­es can involve con­fu­sion, weak­ness, and an inabil­i­ty to sweat. 

If a mem­ber of your group is run­ning a fever over 101 degrees Fahren­heit, acts con­fused, is feel­ing very slug­gish, or com­plains of a headache, they might be severe­ly dehy­drat­ed and require med­ical atten­tion. Seizures, dif­fi­cul­ty breath­ing, faint­ing, and chest or abdom­i­nal pains are signs that you need to get help imme­di­ate­ly. The worst cas­es of dehy­dra­tion can lead to a coma, organ fail­ure, and even death. Don’t freak out—most cas­es can be resolved rel­a­tive­ly eas­i­ly, and recov­ery is usu­al­ly pret­ty quick.

First Steps
The ear­li­er you spot the signs of dehy­dra­tion, the bet­ter. Encour­age the per­son to take small sips of water or, bet­ter yet, a sports drink. If pos­si­ble, head into the shade and help your par­ty mem­ber cool down. Loosen their cloth­ing and remove excess lay­ers. Place a wet tow­el or t‑shirt around their neck to help their body return to a nor­mal tem­per­a­ture. Give them some time to rest. When they’re feel­ing bet­ter, call it a day and start hik­ing back slowly.

Don’t apply ice packs or any­thing too cold to the dehy­drat­ed person’s skin. If they start to shiv­er, that means that their body is try­ing to warm itself up, which is what you’re try­ing to avoid.

Pre­ven­tion TipsDrinking
Bring more than enough water with you, espe­cial­ly when you know you’re going to be sweat­ing. Guide­lines sug­gest two to four quarts of water on a day hike, but if you know you’re head­ing on a gru­el­ing trail or if you tend to sweat a lot, don’t hes­i­tate to bring more. Stop often to grab a sip of water to ensure that you’re replac­ing any flu­ids you’re los­ing. Think of it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to stop and enjoy your sur­round­ings. Keep your elec­trolytes up with sport drinks or salty snacks. Don’t pur­sue out­door activ­i­ties dur­ing the hottest peri­od of the day. Use this as an excuse to get up bright and ear­ly to play outside.