Guarding against dehydration helps to avoid serious illness

NewsdayJuly 14, 2013 

Warmer weather presents the opportunity for people of all ages to get outside and enjoy things such as beaches, parks, the waterfront and more.

Whether you’re exercising, playing or just basking up the sun’s warm rays, there are some hazards that can put a damper on any summer day; among those is dehydration.

Andria Coleman, a registered dietitian and clinical nutrition monitor for Forest Hills (N.Y.) Hospital, says that when the weather gets warm and people start spending more time outdoors, they are unaware of how often to replace fluids and how quickly the body can become dehydrated.

“If you are working outside in the sun — working out or doing physical activity — there are the elements that work against you,” Coleman said. Not only is your body working to cool itself down, she said, but doing that work exerts energy that heats it back up. It’s a double-edged sword.

If you’re spending an extended period of time outside, there are a few signs and symptoms of dehydration that you should be mindful of. “Some of the signs and symptoms are, of course, sweating profusely; getting really tired and becoming disoriented,” Coleman explained, adding, “You can become lightheaded, you can get headaches, you definitely get the sensation that you’ve become parched — your throat gets dry, your mouth gets dry — things like that.”

Fortunately, during the summer months, there are a few sweet and easy tools to combat dehydration. “Of course, fluid is going to be your first choice, but you can also consume foods that have high fluid contents,” says Coleman. On the list of those foods: watermelon, strawberries, pineapples and apples — plus other fruits that have a high water content.

While dehydration is often easily remedied, when left untreated, this can be a serious condition that may lead to serious health complications.

“There are some conditions where you can become severely dehydrated and that has to do with heat stroke, and you can become very sick,” Coleman said.

Other dehydration related conditions (in serious cases) include seizures, swelling of the brain, shock, kidney failure and even death, according to the Mayo Clinic.

While the recommendation is to drink six to eight glasses of water per day, Coleman said to be mindful of activity levels and to hydrate the body as often as possible.

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