You wouldn’t automatically think about hydration being a workplace or community safety issue. But it is. As we see record temperatures across the nation, keeping the body properly hydrated is a critical health issue, not just for your employees, but for everyone – the elderly, youngsters, and YOU!
Did you know that nearly 80% of your body is made up of water? All your organs rely on water to function normally. This includes digestion, saliva, cushion bones, brain support, joint lubrication, and body temperature regulation!
Signs & Symptoms to Look Out For
When you are working, playing and sweating in the heat dehydration can set in quickly. The feeling of thirst is the first indication that you may already be experiencing dehydration.
Signs of moderate to severe dehydration include:
• Dry tongue and dry lips.
• No tears when crying.
• Fewer than six wet diapers per day (for infants), and no wet diapers or urination for eight hours (in toddlers).
• Sunken soft spot on your infant’s head.
• Sunken eyes.
• Dry, wrinkled skin.
• Deep, rapid breathing.
• Cool, blotchy hands and feet.
• Headache, delirium and confusion.
• Tiredness (fatigue).
• Dizziness, weakness and lightheadedness.
• Dry mouth and/or a dry cough.
• High heart rate but low blood pressure.
• Loss of appetite but maybe craving sugar.
• Flushed (red) skin.
• Swollen feet.
• Muscle cramps.
• Heat intolerance or chills.
• Dark-colored pee (urine). Your pee should be a pale, clear color.
If you notice these symptoms, it is important to seek medical care. Moderate cases of dehydration may require a patient to receive fluids via an IV, but severe dehydration is a medical emergency that can be fatal if not treated.
What can you do to maintain a healthy hydration level?
• Carry a water bottle with you. Keep it filled.
• Choose water instead of sugary drinks, including at meals.
• Add flavor. A wedge of lime or lemon might make it tastier. You can also try some flavored drink mixes, but watch out for the sugar.
• Eat foods that are high in water content. Many soups, fruits and vegetables meet this description.
• If you don’t like drinking a lot of water at once, try smaller doses spread out throughout the day.
Keep in mind, chugging water may not be enough in extreme temperatures. While it replaces the fluid, it does not replace electrolytes, or the salts that you’re losing as you sweat. Individuals who are working or exercising in the heat for an hour or longer should consider starting to supplement their regular water intake with sports drinks or even some salty snacks.
In very rare instances, drinking too much water too quickly can also be dangerous. This is called water toxicity. Water toxicity can occur when someone drinks water faster than their body can process, which is about 1 liter per hour. The water over-dilutes the sodium in the system, causing cells to swell and potentially leading to brain swelling.
It’s important to gradually stay hydrated throughout a hot day or throughout a workout. Experts suggest that women should be drinking 2.5 liters of water over the entire day — and men should be drinking 3.5 liters of water per day, stressing that steady hydration is the key to safety.