Hot and humid weather..they’re a sure sign that it’s summertime in Virginia. Hot summer days are prime time for family vacations, sports camps, gardening, swimming, and general fun in the sun. But extreme sun and heat can mean more than fun – they can also mean dehydration and heat illness. Joining us for Martha Jefferson Healthwise today is nephrologist Dr. Connie Christ with information and advice on how to stay healthy and hydrated in the summer heat.
WHAT ARE SIGNS OF DEHYDRATION AND HEAT ILLNESS?
Everyone should be aware that muscle cramps, nausea, vomiting, headache, a fast heart rate, dizziness, fast breathing rate, and decreased mental acuity may indicate severe dehydration and heat illness. Severe dehydration and heat illness represent a medical emergency, and prompt medical attention should be sought.
WHAT AND HOW MUCH SHOULD WE BE DRINKING DAILY DURING THE SUMMERTIME TO AVOID DEHYDRATION?
Fluid is required for health--- even at rest. A quick way to calculate how many ounces of fluid are needed at rest is to take your ideal body weight in pounds and divide it by two. One third of this is typically provided by a balanced diet. The remaining two-thirds require the ingestion of fluid. This amount may vary with certain medical conditions. The additional fluid required to compensate for sweat loss during activity will depend on a number of factors such as: the type of activity, duration of activity, clothing worn, environmental conditions, acclimatization, body size and mass, genetic make-up, and level of fitness. Checking body weight before and after an activity will give an indication of fluid lost that needs to be replaced as a result of the activity. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, water is typically sufficient as a fluid replacement for mild to moderate activities lasting less than 45 minutes. For more intense activities lasting more than 45 minutes, use of “sports drinks” that contain carbohydrate and electrolytes should be considered.
Check out www.9csm.org for more information.
WHO IS MOST AT RISK FOR HEAT ILLNESS?
There are groups of people who are more susceptible to heat illness – particularly children and the elderly. Children’s sweat rate and sweat relative to body surface area are less, which decreases the heat loss through evaporation. Children generally do not voluntarily drink enough water during physical activity. The elderly are more susceptible to heat illness due to changes with age in cardiac function, core temperature and sweat rate. Special populations in whom sweat is impaired, or fluid losses are increased, are also at higher risk. It is important to keep in mind, however, that heat illness can affect all of us—even the well trained, well conditioned, young and healthy.
HOW CAN FAMILIES PROTECT THEMSELVES FROM DEHYDRATION AND HEAT ILLNESS?
Tips to prevent dehydration and heat illness are: Staying aware of the weather conditions. Avoid heavy work in hot, humid weather. Plan your outdoor activities earlier in the morning when it is often cooler. Wear loose fitting clothing that will allow for air to circulate. Start the activity well hydrated, maintain hydration during the activity, and replace what is lost as a result of the activity. And finally, pay attention to the warning signs of dehydration and heat illness.