Do You Drink Enough Water?
Stay Hydrated: Avoid the Emergency Department
No one wants to spend their vacation or beach day in the emergency department. The combination of summer heat, liquids like alcohol that dehydrate you, and too much time in the sun can be a dangerous if you don’t drink enough water.
Even if you aren’t consuming alcohol, many people end up in the emergency room each year due to dehydration.
Older adults and children are most susceptible to dehydration as temperatures rise. In addition, those undergoing cancer treatments may also be more susceptible to dehydration.
Symptoms of Dehydration
When you don’t drink enough water, your body holds onto every drop of moisture it has. This is when you hear about someone who doesn’t sweat. If your body doesn’t have any extra moisture, it won’t want to release any to sweat.
People who are dehydrated will also notice that their urine is darker and may have more of an odor. For healthy individuals, if you drink enough fluid so you rarely feel thirsty and your urine is light yellow (the color of weak lemonade) then your fluid intake is probably adequate.
When your body is dehydrated, your eyes may feel sticky or you may have some loss of vision. You may also feel light-headed or dizzy.
Your body needs water for its metabolic processes and to break down the food you eat. Without enough water, your body has to work harder to keep going, so you may feel more tired than usual if you are dehydrated.
Those who are severely dehydrated could faint or temporarily lose consciousness. If you have other medical conditions, those may worsen if you are dehydrated. Some studies have also shown a connection between dehydration and the body’s ability to recover from transient ischemic attack (TIA or mini-stroke).
Getting Enough Water
The solution seems relatively simple – drink more water! However, it is important to mention that you should drink water regularly over the course of the day. If you drink large amounts of water just at one point in the day, you are still susceptible to heat stroke.
One good way to make sure you are drinking throughout the day is to carry a reusable water bottle with you wherever you go. This will allow you to sip water at any point in the day. Refill the bottle three to four times and you are probably close to hitting the recommended daily intake.
Also be sure to cool yourself down regularly. If you work outside in the heat during the day, be sure to drink extra water and relax in a cool spot in the evenings.
It’s also important to pay attention to how much water you drink when exercising on hot days. What seems like adequate hydration, isn’t always enough and excessive activity can still make you more susceptible to a heat-related illness like heat stroke.
Older people on diuretics, blood pressure medication, antidepressants, and other drugs are more susceptible to dehydrations and should limit their time in the sun. Make sure your air conditioning is working properly so you can stay inside on really hot days.
Keep an eye on older family members and children to make sure they are drinking throughout the day. And, make sure to limit their time in hot cars. The temperature inside a car can easily be 10 degrees or more higher than the outside temperature – even with the windows cracked.
Be sure to never leave an older adult, a child, or a pet in a hot car for any amount of time. They dehydrate quickly and could faint or even die.
Stay cool this summer and be sure to drink your water!
Kevin Bristowe, MD, is a doctor with Sussex Emergency Associates in Beebe’s Emergency Department. He is the Medical Director of Emergency Services. For more information on Beebe Healthcare, go to www.beebehealthcare.org.
Tips for increasing water intake by Debra Dobies, MA, RD, LDN
- Add a squeeze of lemon or lime juice to plain water to add variety.
- Keep a bottle or glass of water handy on your desk or in your bag.
- Add ice cubes made from fresh fruit to a glass of water.
- Drink a glass of water with each meal and between each meal
- Drink water before, during, and after exercise.
Always consult with your physician or healthcare provider before making any dietary/nutrition changes or commencing or changing your physical activity.
According to the Institute of Medicine the Adequate Intake (AI) total water for healthy adults ages 19 to greater than 70 years of age of drinking water and total beverages is 13 cups/3.7 L/day for men and 9 cups/2.2 L/day for women. When you are not drinking enough water the body’s thirst mechanism is signaled. The thirst signal can lag behind water loss during prolonged exercise, illness, in children and as we age.
Debra Dobies, MA, RD, LDN, is Beebe Healthcare's Ornish Reversal Program Registered Dietitian and Medical Nutrition Therapist. Beebe Healthcare's Ornish Reversal Program is now open in the Beebe Medical Arts Building at the Rehoboth Beach Health Campus. For more information, go to www.beebehealthcare.org/ornish.