Understanding the effects of heat and adequate body water is essential to minimize the change of heat injury. Young children and older adults are more at risk for dehydration and need to be monitored carefully.
Many people think that as long as they don't feel thirsty, they are getting plenty of fluids. Unfortunately, thirst is not the best indicator of dehydration. Doctors suggest a better way to evaluate hydration is to monitor urine color. Darker gold or amber urine signals dehydration (though some vitamin supplements may also temporarily darken urine). Clear or pale straw color indicates adequate fluids. Go for clear.
- Heat Exhaustion can produce mild to moderate dehydration. Symptoms include:
- Dry, sticky mouth and increased thirst
- Flushed skin & rise in body temperature
- Increased pulse & breathing rate or labored breathing
- Dry skin
- Muscle cramps
- Reduced urination
- Results in loss of fluid from blood which makes the heart work harder.
- Heat stroke causes severe dehydration and is a life threatening medical emergency. The body has lost it's ability to cool itself, and body temperatures can rise to dangerous levels. Classic heat stroke is due to high environmental temperatures. Very young children, older adults, and though with chronic illnesses are most at risk. Exertional heat stroke is caused by internal body heat from high levels of exercise.
- Extremely dry mouth
- Cessation of sweating
- Skin that appears shriveled, lacks elasticity, red
- Little to no urination
- Muscle cramping
- Nausea, vomiting
- Sunken eyes
- Low blood pressure
- Rapid heart rate and breathing
- Confusion, irrational behavior, delirium
When exercising in higher temperatures, it's critical to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after exercise. Stick to early morning hours or after four for all strenuous outdoor activity. Interestingly, it's the well-trained athletes who are more at risk, due to their well-trained ability to sweat and lose more fluids.
The need for fluid replacement goes up with:
You can drink too much. Extremely large water consumption can lead to a dangerous, hyper-hydrated state called hyponatremia, which can dilute sodium and other electrolyte concentration to life-threatening levels.
Heat can affect anyone. Pay attention to heat advisories and adjust your plans accordingly. When temperatures rise, start increasing water or other fluids throughout the day. Strive to keep your urine clear or straw colored.