How to prevent dehydration

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by Catherine Holland

azfamily.com

Posted on May 31, 2011 at 10:26 AM

Updated Tuesday, May 31 at 10:35 AM

PHOENIX – The weather is heating up, which means the danger of dehydration is greater, too.

Dehydration is a sneaky condition. Oftentimes people do not realize that they are dehydrated until it’s too late.

Dr. Art Mollen dispelled some dehydration myths for Scott Pasmore.

According to Mollen, dehydration is more common than most people think, especially since it can sneak up on you quickly.

Visitors to Arizona who are often unfamiliar with the extreme summer heat and its potentially deadly effects are especially susceptible to dehydration.

Conventional wisdom has always said that most people need eight glasses of water a day, but is that enough to stave off dehydration?

“There’s a lot of scientific evidence that suggests you should drink even more, particularly for women,” Mollen said.

The amount of water you need to drink depends quite a bit on what eat. Some foods provide your body with needed water while others, especially those high in sodium, leech it from your system.

Just as different foods affect the amount of water you should be consuming, so do different drinks. When it comes to hydration, not all fluids are created equal. Water is the best drink. Sodas and coffee containing caffeine can often contribute to dehydration, as can beer and other alcohol.

“You should really concentrate on the amount of water,” Mollen said.

Symptoms of moderate to mild dehydration include a dry or sticky mouth, fatigue and lethargy, decreased urine output, dry skin, headache, constipation, dizziness.

It’s important to remember that thirst is not a good way to gauge your need for water. By the time you’re thirsty, you’re probably already on your way to dehydration.

“You should be drinking earlier,” Mollen said. “Thirst is not the direct indicator that someone is dehydrated.”

You urine is a great indicator of your hydration level. Light or clear is means you are well hydrated. Dark yellow or amber urine generally signals dehydration.

Mild to moderate dehydration can usually be dealt with by taking in more fluids, especially water or some kind of electrolyte-balanced sports drink.

Severe dehydration, however, is another matter. It’s a medical emergency that requires a 911 call and immediate care at a hospital or urgent care clinic. Symptoms include, extreme thirst, irritability and confusion, very dry mouth, lack of sweating, little or no urination, sunken eyes, dry skin that has lost its elasticity, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, fever and in the worst cases, delirium or unconsciousness.

When it comes to dehydration, the best defense is a good offense. Be sure to drink plenty of water throughout the day, particularly before and during any kind of exercise or exertion.

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