Summertime weather entices most everyone to spend more time outside. But along with sunshine can come excessive heat, and if your body becomes overheated, it can also suffer the repercussions of dehydration.
On hot days, and particularly during and after extensive exercise, keeping your body hydrated can be the difference between a beautiful day outside and one spent in the hospital.
Young children and the elderly are at greatest risk of dehydration. Infants’ and toddlers’ bodies contain a high percentage of water, and if they do not drink enough, they can easily lose necessary fluid. “Seniors are also at risk and may experience lightheadedness or feel faint when dehydrated,” said Martin Kabongo, M.D., Ph.D., Family Medicine, UCSD Healthcare Scripps Ranch Clinic. As the body ages, it naturally slows down; maintaining normal body temperature becomes more difficult for the body. For these reasons, older adults should avoid high temperatures.
Dehydration does not discriminate. Even older children and younger adults are susceptible to dehydration if they are not careful about replenishing fluids.
Dehydration results from excessive perspiration, failure to drink enough fluids, or a combination of the two. Especially if you are sweating a lot, be sure to increase your intake of sodium to keep your electrolytes in balance. Symptoms of dehydration include decreased urination, a dry or sticky mouth, failure to produce tears, sunken eyes, and lethargy.
“Sweating, strenuous exercise or not drinking water can cause dehydration. Body muscles can begin to get tired and a person may experience leg cramps or feel faint,” noted Kabongo.
Not to be taken lightly, dehydration can have even more severe repercussions. When you are dehydrated, your blood pressure may drop, particularly when you stand up from a prone position. At the same time, your pulse may speed up, and you may even go into shock. Severe, untreated dehydration can lead to seizures or brain damage and may even be fatal.
If dehydration isn’t treated soon enough, symptoms become more serious and may require IV fluids and hospitalization.