Sweltering summer temperatures are in full effect. There’s no denying that it’s hot outside and more heat waves may come. Most of the western United States continue to face extreme heat warnings, which increase the risk of wildfires. As Glenn Frey sang, “The heat is on,” and hospitals are ready for a higher influx of heat-related illnesses or dehydration cases.
According to the National Weather Service, extreme heat kills more people on average than hurricanes, tornadoes, lightning, and floods combined. Prolonged periods in temperatures that exceed 90 degrees can tax the body because it makes it difficult for the body to maintain its internal core temperature. Staying indoors and cranking the air conditioning isn’t the only way to stave off dehydration when it’s hot outside. You can use simple techniques to care for the body during intense heat.
How Does The Body Dehydrate In Hot Weather?
Firstly, dehydration is a serious heat-related illness that has dangerous side effects, including fever, vomiting, and diarrhea. Children under the age of 12 and adults over the age of 60 are more susceptible to dehydration. How does dehydration happen in hot weather? The body is approximately 60% water, which people constantly lose via sweat and breath. Hotter temperatures only accelerate this process.
When the body begins to sweat, heart rate increases, causing blood to push towards the skin’s surface to dissipate the heat. This is the body’s natural way of cooling off, but it actually generates more heat inside the body. When the body gets hotter and sweats profusely, it starts to lose fluids and electrolytes. Failure to counteract this by drinking water and electrolytes only expedites dehydration. Additionally, when the body is in a state of dehydration, it may not sweat enough or fast enough to counteract the heat. This increases the risk of heat exhaustion and heat stroke.
As heat exhaustion sets in, the body can no longer stay cool. Health experts say that blood pressure drops, heart rate accelerates, and some people can experience altered mental states.
How Quickly Can You Become Dehydrated?
This will depend on your current health, the temperature, and what you’re doing in the heat. The longer you spend in direct sunlight when it’s hot outside, the quicker you arrive at a state of dehydration. Yard work, construction, and outdoor exercise all increase energy expenditure and sweating, which causes fluid loss. It’s easy for a person to lose a liter of water within an hour or two if they do not hydrate. Failure to drink water in hot weather can cause dehydration within a couple hours. This mainly applies to people who are not actively exerting themselves.
During a heat wave, the time it takes to arrive at dehydration may be quicker. As mentioned earlier, people who are younger or older tend to be more at risk of dehydration. Additionally, people who take medication(s) daily can be more prone to dehydration because certain medications can increase the risk of dehydration.
Signs of Dehydration
The second you start to feel thirsty means that the body has already lost one to two percent of the total water supply. It sounds like a small percentage, but this is significant. If you notice dark-colored urine or experience lightheadedness or nausea, you are dehydrated. A lesser-known sign of dehydration is that the skin loses tension when you pinch it. Test the skin’s elasticity by pinching the back of your hand and holding if for a couple seconds. Release it and if the pinched skin takes more than five seconds to return to normal, you are moderately dehydrated. This is why you have to drink water before you get thirsty.
How To Combat Dehydration
The best thing you can do for the body when it’s hot outside is to try and stay out of the heat. If you must be outside, drink fluids on a regular basis. Water is hydrating, but you need to vary your fluid intake to compensate for the electrolytes you lose via sweat. It’s easy to think that a sugary sports drink is your best option, but try to drink better alternatives. Fresh coconut water, squeezing fresh lemon in your water, and adding other hydrating fruits to your water can increase your electrolyte intake. After you spend time outdoors, make sure to drink 20-24 fluid ounces of water immediately. If you exercised, weigh yourself to see if you lost weight via sweat. Experts recommend drinking 20 ounces of water for every pound lost to get the body back into a hydrated state.