With all the talk of global water shortages, it’s amazing how much water is actually on the planet – including our own human bodies. More than half of the human body is made up water – in fact, as newborns, we’re mostly water! Water is vital to the human body – without it, we die. We need it to nourish us, to cool us, to hydrate us.
It would seem that with all that water in us, we’d never go thirsty, but we use water constantly – when we breathe, when we move,when we urinate, when we sweat, when we sleep. We use up water simply by existing. And we use up a lot of it. We need to replenish our supply constantly. Our bodies are pretty good at letting us know when we need to replenish our supply of the good stuff. We get pangs of thirst that signify the need to refuel and those hunger pangs sometimes aren’t really – they are thirst pangs disguised as a need for food. We need at least eight glasses a day, but this will also depend on the size of a person, their health and their activity levels. Another way to gauge water needs is to drink half your body weight in ounces. In other words, if you weight 150 lbs, you will need at least 75 oz of water every day. It doesn’t always have to be plain water – liquids like tea or coffee also count, although liquids like alcohol actually dehydrate and cannot be considered a source of hydration.
Dehydration is a problem for many, and sometimes we don’t even realize it until major damage has been done. We’ve heard stories of young sports players dropping dead on the field from heat exhaustion and dehydration, and of older people collapsing in a heat wave. Anyone involved in strenuous activities needs to make sure their water intake is higher than their output. Children playing outside need to be continually hydrated and persons who work outside all day – especially in the summer months, need to take great care to make sure they drink plenty of water. And those of us who have diabetes, or have an illness where diarrhea or vomiting is present, are at risk.
So what happens when we don’t drink enough? Sometimes a glass or two is all we need to replenish our systems. But sometimes there’s a real danger of collapse, of worse – when our body lacks the water it needs.
Our body will preserve as much liquid as it can, so our mouths and eyes will become dry and nausea may set in. We may become dizzy, light headed, and confused. Our urine will decrease and darken in color and our eyes may yellow. Someone with these symptoms needs immediate medical attention, especially a very young child or older person.
But healthy adults can also suffer the perils of dehydration, no matter how healthy they think they are. Without adequate water, it doesn’t take long for the body to show the ill-effects. And left untreated, it can cause kidney failure, brain swelling, coma, or hypovolemic shock. This kind of shock can cause death to happen quickly, if left untreated. People from over-exerted athletes, dancers and entertainers to under hydrated kids and grandparents, can suffer this kind of shock and it’s fast and furious. Champion mixed martial arts fighter Gina Joy Carano was rushed to hospital with dehydration in 2007 and Houston Astros reliever Wesley Wright was also rushed to hospital two weeks ago, apparently suffering from the same ailment. Dehydration was a constant worry for recently deceased singer Michael Jackson who lost up to 10 lbs from exertion and heat during every concert, rehearsed constantly for his planned concert comeback, and had trouble keeping his body healthy due to a poor diet and possible drug use/abuse.
How do we avoid dehydration? By not using more water than we take in and by limiting alcohol and drugs, as well as avoiding situations of over-exertion and heat exposure. Sufferers from illnesses that cause vomiting or diarrhea, as well as conditions like diabetes need to make sure they monitor their water intake. The very young and old need to be cared for when ill or during the long summer months.
Because dehydration can be sudden - and silent – it can also be deadly. If it doubt, or when symptoms are more than just a moderate thirst or sweat, care needs to be taken to rehydrate directly. And if rehydration does not happen quickly, seek medical attention immediately.
Did you know that dehydration can cause death? Have you experienced dehydration? How did you replenish your water supplies?