Preventive Maintenance: Hot and Bothered? Just Like Your Truck, Your Body Needs Fluids
July 1, 2004
Finally, it's summer. The sun is shining and the sky is clear. Looking through your windshield, you see waves of heat rising from the road ahead. It's the season for overheated engines, so I'm sure you pay careful attention to your truck's fluid l...
Finally, it’s summer. The sun is shining and the sky is clear. Looking through your windshield, you see waves of heat rising from the road ahead. It’s the season for overheated engines, so I’m sure you pay careful attention to your truck’s fluid levels. Its cooling system needs enough water to dissipate the heat the engine creates. So does your body. Without enough fluids, you are headed for a dehydration meltdown.
Dehydration (loss of body fluids) is measured in three stages: mild, moderate, or severe, based on the percentage of body weight lost. Severe dehydration is life threatening as it changes the balances of salts in your body, short circuiting various systems.
It’s easy to get dehydrated on hot days, just don’t drink enough water. But there are other problem situations you should be aware of too. Repeated vomiting or diarrhea, high fever and excessive sweating or urination can also cause you to dry out.
Could you be dehydrated? Ask yourself these questions: Does my mouth feel dry and sticky? Do I urinate less often than usual, and is my urine a dark yellow and strong smelling? Are my eyes dry and sunken looking? Do I feel (uncharacteristically) tired and lazy all the time? Is my blood pressure low? (Have I taken my blood pressure on one of those drug store machines and found it to be well under 120 over 80? Do I feel like I’m going to pass out when I stand up quickly?) Does my pulse race? If I pinch my skin, does it stay puckered longer than usual?
If you have some of these signs of dehydration, what should you do? Just drink more fluids. (Frequent, small amounts are best). This is a quick-fix for mild dehydration. If you’ve lost fluids because of the flu, don’t worry, you’ll probably be back to your usual self in just a few days. (But, if you’ve been vomiting for over 24 hours, go to a clinic.) However, for moderate or serious dehydration, you’d better see a doctor. You may need an IV and/or hospitalization.
If you realize you’re getting dehydrated and start drinking immediately, there’s usually no problem. However severe dehydration, if left untreated, may result in seizures, permanent brain damage, or death.
Dehydration can be a factor in other heat-related illnesses. Another problem on these hot, summer days is heat exhaustion. To get heat exhaustion, all you need is a few days of high temperatures combined with not enough fluid intake.
Some warning signs of heat exhaustion are: heavy sweating, paleness, muscle cramps, tiredness, weakness, dizziness, headache, nausea or vomiting and fainting. With heat exhaustion your skin may feel cool and moist, but your pulse will be fast and weak and your breathing fast and shallow.
Early treatment of heat exhaustion is essential, so take these steps quickly. First of all, get out of the heat and cool yourself down.
Find an air-conditioned spot and sit down to drink a nonalcoholic beverage. Rest. After taking a cool shower or bath, keep cool by putting on some lightweight clothing.
Although heat exhaustion is not life threatening, it can lead to a more serious condition: heat stroke.
Heat stroke occurs when your body severely overheats because it can no longer regulate its temperature (usually because you don’t have enough body moisture to sweat).
Without sweat to dissipate your internal heat, your body can’t cool itself so your core temperature goes up quickly.
This serious situation can cause permanent disability or even kill you!
Some warning signs of heat stroke are: an extremely high body temperature (103 F plus, orally); red, hot, and dry skin (without sweat); rapid, strong pulse; throbbing headache; dizziness; nausea; confusion; and loss of consciousness.
By this time, your health and safety is out of your hands, so don’t let things go this far!
Drink plenty of fluids every day (at least eight glasses or more) and stay healthy this summer. Drink more when it’s hot or you’re exercising.
And when you stop to check the fluid levels for your rig: fuel, windshield washer fluid, oil, transmission fluid, etc., make sure that your water bottle gets topped up, too.
You’re your body’s only fluid level warning system. Enjoy the heat, without overheating.
– Karen Bowen is a professional health and nutrition consultant and she can be reached by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.