Dealing With Dehydration
As the summer rolls around, we’ll all be out running in the heat, so it’s important to know about dehydration. In this article, I’d like to tell you about dehydration. We’ll cover the symptoms, treatments, and consequences so you’ll be fully prepared for the coming summer heat.
Dehydration is a tricky little devil. Many times you don’t even feel it coming until it’s too late. For instance, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Let’s take a look at the symptoms of dehydration so you can see it coming. These aren’t the only symptoms, and some symptoms will vary from person to person. These are simply the most common and easy to recognize.
Thirst: Like I said before, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. This is not an emergency symptom (we’ve all been thirsty many times, I’m sure) but it’s one sign that you’re getting dehydrated.
Chills: When you get dehydrated, you get cold. Also, your hair seems to be standing on end. This happened to me today. When this happens, you generally know you are pretty darn dehydrated. Be on the lookout for this one. If your hair is on end, it’s time to do something.
Appetite loss: When you get fairly dehydrated, you will start to lose your appetite. If you don’t feel like eating for a long time when you probably should be, you may be dehydrated.
Face reddening, or flushing: You’ve probably seen this one in your friends. When you start lacking hydration, you start getting red in the face. Flushing does not mean getting pale, remember. It means getting red.
Weakness: When your muscles are not getting the water (and thereby oxygen) they need, they start to get tired, and you begin to feel weak all over. Usually, if you’re feeling this way, you’re pretty badly dehydrated. It’s not one you can really see coming, usually.
Dark urine: It’s worth noting, there are other things that can cause this to happen, so you can’t be sure it’s because of dehydration, but if you see it in combination with the others, you can be pretty sure of what’s going on.
Blacking out: When you’re dehydrated and you stand up after sitting or lying down for some time, you’ll generally get a “head rush” which causes you to black out. Again, other things can cause this (dramatic change in diet, for instance) but dehydration makes it worse.
Cottonmouth: Cottonmouth is the feeling of dryness in the mouth that you’ll feel when opening and closing your mouth. It means that the molecules in your mouth are not getting enough fluids. This can come on gradually, so you can be on the lookout for it.
There are a number of things you can do to treat some or all of these symptoms
Now that you know what to be looking for, what can you do about it when you see these symptoms, or just realize you’re dehydrated? There are a number of things you can do to treat some or all of these symptoms and get your body back the hydration it needs.
Drink water: This may be the most obvious, but if you catch it early, it’s the most effective. Drink slowly and in small sips until you start feeling better.
Replace electrolytes: This is key. When you sweat, you lose more than water. Sports drinks like Gatorade and Powerade replace electrolytes (salt) that you also lose when sweating. Also, tablets such as Nuun help replace Sodium, Potassium, Magensium that you loose. Short of that, try pretzels and other salty foods to give replenish what you’ve lost.
Avoid caffeine: Caffeine is one of the worst things you can drink when you are dehydrated. It actually dehydrates you more (at high doses), so stay away from it. That being said, sometimes there is nothing better at mile 55 than a nice cold cup of coke. You decide.
Take emergency action: If you are very severely dehydrated, get someone at an aid station to call an ambulance for you. If you’re on a training run, get help if you can. As we’re about to see, it’s not something to play around with.
Here comes the scary part. Remember when your mom would tell you what would happen if you did something bad? Well here’s the blog equivalent. I’m going to tell you what can happen if you let dehydration go unchecked and become severe.
At 5% or more fluid loss
- Increased heartrate
- Increased respiration
- Decreased sweating
- Decreased urination
- Increased body temperature
- Extreme fatigue
- Muscle cramps
- Tingling of the limbs
At 10% or more fluid loss
- Muscle spasms
- Racing pulse
- Shriveled skin
- Dim vision
- Painful urination
- Difficulty breathing
- Chest and Abdominal pain
It’s important to keep track of how much water you are drinking. The exact amount differs from person to person, but it’s generally recommended to drink at least 20 fl. oz. per hour of activity, and this amount probably goes up in the later stages of an ultramarathon.
The best thing you can do is be alert. Be on the lookout for these symptoms. If you see them happening, make sure to get something to drink. Try not to let the dehydration get severe, but if it does, take action. It’s not worth risking. You don’t have to drop out of a race (unless it’s really, very bad) but you may want to take an extra few minutes at the next aid station to get some extra gatorade and eat some pretzels.
– This is a guest post provided by Christian Jones