COMMENTARY: Know the effects of dehydration

With the start of high school sports practice and warm weather still ahead, are you drinking enough water?

This is an important question to consider at all times of the year, but is of particular concern during hot, summer months. Dehydration occurs when excess fluid loss in the body impedes normal functioning.

We are made up of a large proportion of water. Proper hydration is important for the overall health of the human body. Those who work outside or in very hot environments are more likely to experience the effects of dehydration. When you are thirsty, you are already in danger of dehydration.

Mark Morgan D.O.

Certain groups are more susceptible to dehydration, including young children, older adults and those who suffer from cystic fibrosis, renal disease, diabetes, or hyperthyroidism. But dehydration can easily affect anyone.

Diarrheal illnesses are the primary causes. Other common causes are elevated temperatures, reduced water intake, burns and/or increased output.

Recognizing the signs of dehydration is a good first step. Beyond thirst, which is the obvious initial symptom, decreased urine output; increased body temperature; dry skin; and mental status changes, such as lethargy or confusion, are warning signs, with the latter being a red flag to seek medical attention.

Urine color also may be an indicator. Generally, dark urine indicates inadequate fluid intake. Clear usually means you’re “in the clear.”

At the first signs of dehydration, move from the exposure source and rehydrate with water immediately. In the most severe cases, dehydration can cause seizures and if left untreated, can lead to shock and death, so it’s not a condition to take lightly. Emergency care can provide IV therapy and more intense rehydration treatment when needed.

Chronically having poor hydration can contribute to reduced kidney function, poor skin tone, reduced mental abilities, joint and muscle aches and pain.

Drinking plenty of water should be a priority, not only to avoid negative consequences but because it serves us well in many ways. Beauty experts say proper hydration makes skin look younger with less wrinkles.

Chronic pain sufferers tend to have reduced pain when properly hydrated and more pain when their hydration is poor. Water consumption is also linked to increased energy levels. Small, frequent sips of water throughout the day and avoiding caffeine, alcohol and sugary drinks.

Mark Morgan, DO, is a Bayhealth Primary Care Smyrna physician, To find a doctor in your area, visit Bayhealth.org/Find-A-Doctor or call 1-866-BAY-DOCS (229-3627).

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