With this very hot summer it is extra important to remain hydrated and avoid overheating. Young children and older adults are more prone to overheating and dehydration, but everyone is at risk. According to the Center for Disease Control, excessive heat exposure caused more than 8,000 deaths in the US from 1979-2003.
The most important thing you can do to prevent dehydrating and overheating it to stay hydrated! When it is hot outside your body tries to compensate and cool you off by sweating. The act of sweating drains your body of fluids and electrolytes so it is necessary to give your body back what it is using. Drinking lots of water is important. A sports drink that has electrolytes is another option, especially if you are playing sports or doing other activities in the heat.
It is also important to know the signs of dehydration.
Mild dehydration can be identified by:
• Dry mouth
• Tiredness or sleepiness
• Headache or dizziness or lightheadedness
• Dry skin (lack of tears or sweat)
• Decreased urine output
All of these are signs that you need to start rehydrating. It is especially important to pay attention to young children since they can’t always tell you when their mouth is dry or they have a headache. More severe signs of dehydration include:
• Rapid breathing
• Rapid heartbeat
• Sunken soft spots in babies
• More severe signs of mild dehydration
Let your doctor know if you or someone you know is having signs of severe dehydration as this can be a serious condition.
Another important thing that can help is to avoid being in a hot environment for too long. Being in the shade or air conditioning when possible is the best way to avoid overheating. Avoiding direct sunlight will help keep you cooler and also avoid causing sunburn. Don’t leave children in cars since the air inside of a car can exceed the temperature outside very quickly. Also wearing loose fitting, light weight, light colored clothing can help.
You can still enjoy your summer and being outside! Just take precautions against dehydration and overheating and enjoy in moderation!
Written by: Alyssa Ahrens, Drake University PharmD Candidate