Heat increases dehydration danger

July 9, 2010 3:14:35 PM PDT
The extreme high temperatures of this heat wave also remind us of the need to keep ourselves well hydrated by putting plenty of water or other liquids in our body. Dehydration can be the start of a spiral towards serious heat illness. Dehydration can particularly be a threat for some of us. Heat kills more people than any weather related event.

It's at these times of year that we're able to really appreciate an important health habit, drinking plenty of water. Its good to do it at any time of year, but when the heat is ongoing, our bodies start undergoing a particular kind of stress. Not drinking enough water can put you at risk for dehydration, which can be very serious.

The human body is a water recycling machine. The water gets pulled out by sweat, bowel movements and our own breath, while food and drink bring water back into the body.

Most experts recommend a cup of water about every two hours for women, and a little more for men.

So do we need to drink more water during these hot times?

"It depends what environment you're exposing yourself to," said Dr. Christopher Mcstay of the NYU Langone Medical Center.

If you're in a hot temperature, staying in the sun, or you're exerting yourself, you definitely need more water, because you're probably losing a lot to sweat.

If the water isn't getting replaced, dehydration is a threat, which can lead to other heat illnesses.

Older people have a heightened risk of dehydration because they may not experience thirst as intensely, or may avoid drinking water so they don't have to go to the bathroom as often.

Some individuals worry about urinating. Some people go to the bathroom too often and have difficulties with bladder control so one effective strategy is not taking in that much water so they don't have to urinate as often. In the heat now, it's not a great strategy.

For seniors, not drinking enough water can lead to dehydration. It's often a reason why seniors are hospitalized.

Children, who may not complain or pay attention to their bodies, particularly during games, need to be monitored, so that they don't become dehydrated during heat waves.

"Water should be supplemented by something that contains electrolytes and salt. Sports drinks are particularly effective because they contain the fluid electrolytes and salt," said Dr. Gabrielle Gold-von Simson of NYU Langone Medical Center.

One very effective way to avoid dehydration is to monitor your urine. It should be almost clear. If its tea colored or dark, then your probably behind the 8 ball.

Working effectively to re-hydrate yourself is an important way to stay healthy in the heat. That means drinking water or sports drinks. Juices and sodas are okay, but within limits because they contain useless calories. Also, stay away from alcohol and caffeine, which pull water out of the body. If you have any illness that requires you to limit fluid intake, then follow the advice of your doctor.