When most people think of dehydration, they get an image of a person wandering the desert with parched, cracked lips and a red face. They think of the Sahara, Arizona, and other places with dry, hot climates. While these locations and their extreme conditions obviously create the greatest risk of serious dehydration, it is a mistake to assume that you are immune to its effects because you live in a more temperate region.
The first thing that you need to know about dehydration is that it can happen to anyone, anywhere (joggers, office workers, etc.). Lack of sufficient water can have some subtle symptoms, and lead to more severe consequences if left untreated. Thus, the second most important thing to know is how to spot the early warning signs. Here are some of the lower-level dehydration symptoms:
If you are feeling thirsty, guess what? You’re already at least a little dehydrated. This mechanism is your body’s way of telling you that you haven’t had water in a while and need to get some.
What to Do: Listen to your body and drink up! Remember not to down a whole bottle at once, though. It takes the body a little while to completely absorb the water (rates vary depending on your body, other things you’ve consumed, etc.) so don’t expect immediate results, and if you overload your system, it will simply filter out the excess. Just drink a bit at a time and it will help you more.
One of the first parts of the body to noticeably react to the lack of water will be your mouth. Your saliva is meant to help you digest and protect your mouth from certain bacteria. When the well inside of your body starts to dry up, your saliva is often the first to go.
What to do: Same as above.
Weakness & Dizziness
If you ignore the above symptoms, you may actually start to experience slightly more dramatic side-effects, starting with these. Weakness and lightheadedness are common enough, and can happen to you almost as easily while you are trying to finish that project at the office as when you are out running. And at least joggers are aware of the risks, whereas office workers are likely to dismiss any danger in their preoccupation with getting things done.
What to do: When you finally drag yourself away from your desk and notice that your limbs are feeling a bit shaky and you’re dizzy, walk carefully over to the water cooler, fill up a cup (or two), sit back down, and drink slowly and carefully. If you happen to be outside and overheated, go inside or sit in the shade to drink and cool off. If dehydration is actually the problem, it should pass. If you happen to have a small, salty snack with you, eat it soon after you’ve started drinking water. Salt helps you to retain water, so this will help you make the most of your hydration.
Have you ever noticed that your heart seems to pound a bit when you’ve had too much coffee or soda and not enough water throughout the day? This does not usually mean that you are about to have a heart attack – just that you need more water.
What to do: Stop drinking things that have dehydrating properties (such as coffee or alcohol), and start drinking water. There have been many debates about the specific levels of hydration and dehydration that other drinks provide. But nobody questions the fact that water is the purest and best form of hydration that there is. If you are having palpitations, sit down, drink some water, and try not to do anything strenuous for a little while. If the feeling passes, you were probably dehydrated; if not, consult a doctor.
All of these symptoms can usually be dealt with by drinking water and resting for a while, but can become dangerous and very occasionally lethal if not treated. If you faint, are feeling lethargic or confused, have a fever, are having trouble urinating, are having severe diarrhea, are having trouble controlling your arms and legs, or are exhibiting any symptoms of shock, call a doctor or head to an emergency room immediately.
Once you have begun drinking water to rehydrate, don’t stop as soon as you start to feel better. Keep drinking extra for at least a couple of days. Your home water delivery service will ensure that you have all of the water you need, so pack some or fill up a portable water bottle to have with you at all times!