"How much water did you drink today?" Did you
know that minimal dehydration can cause obesity, high
blood pressure etc.?
We usually relate the word `dehydration' to
stories about people dying of thirst when lost in the
desert. Actually, the term refers to a whole range of
water insufficiency, which can all, with varying
degrees, seriously affect our health and ability to work
and learn. Even during cold weather, a person can become
seriously dehydrated and even mild dehydration can
seriously reduce a person's intellectual abilities.
The body uses water for many purposes. Nearly all the
neurological and chemical processes of the body use
water. Blood and hormones are composed of high
percentages of water. Water is one of the most important
mediums for digestion.
Water is lost from the body through breathing, sweating
and the dual processes of elimination. With the water,
the body loses important salts which are vital to many
important functions of the body. So there are two
aspects to dehydration: loss of water and loss of
Through normal breathing, a person loses between one and
two liters of water per day. Under certain conditions of
temperature and humidity, this loss can increase to
about one cup per hour (six liters per day).
The main purpose of perspiration is to prevent the body
from overheating. Sweat glands secrete a mixture of
water, salt and urea. The water evaporates, cooling off
the skin. Usually, the body loses only about one or two
liters of fluid through urination. Urination is
important for removing waste products and excess water
from the body.
Though a lot of water is used in the process of
digestion, most water is removed in the colon and the
body only loses about 100 cc. through defecation.
However, a person suffering from diarrhea can lose as
much as 25 liters of water a day.
The most dangerous consequence of dehydration can lead
to heat stroke. A person suffering from heat stroke is
producing heat faster than he can lose it through
perspiration. As a result, body temperature rises, which
can eventually lead to brain damage and death. Due to
overheating of the brain, the person can become
disoriented, hallucinate, act illogically and become
argumentative. The victim will not necessarily feel
If you suspect someone is suffering from heat stroke, it
is essential to get him/her to the hospital as soon as
possible. Because of their inability to think logically,
the victims may refuse to drink and they will need
infusions of water. Meanwhile, they should be cooled
off, putting priority on cooling the head and neck. You
can cool the sufferers with ice packs and by removing
non-cotton clothing and wetting their body, also fanning
them and massaging their limbs to get the cooled blood
to the main part of the body.
Heat exhaustion is less dangerous than heat stroke but
can be very uncomfortable. It can come several hours
after exertion and dehydration and is caused by loss of
water and salts. Symptoms include fatigue, exhaustion,
nausea, lightheadedness and possibly cramps. The
sufferer needs to replace water and salts so he should
add a teaspoon of salt to a liter of water (preferably
cold) and sip it slowly.
Of course, these are only brief emergency notes on how
to tend to these conditions and a local expert should be
consulted for more complete instructions.
Prevention is better than cure. Especially if the
weather is hot and humid, try to keep out of the heat
and wear protective, loose cotton clothing and head
covering. Clothing should be loose enough to allow air
to circulate so that the sweat can evaporate freely. Do
not rely on feeling thirsty, but drink a lot of water
even if you feel you do not need to drink. Also, eat
some salty food or add salt to the water. Do not over-
exert yourself and take a rest and a drink if you feel
yourself becoming exhausted.
However, even during a normal day, ensure that you and
the children drink enough water. Tea, coffee, chocolate,
caffeinated and alcoholic drinks and fruits such as
watermelon all increase urination so they can all
increase dehydration. Mild dehydration can cause
headaches, a feeling of tiredness and lack of mental
alertness. These symptoms can be similar to Chronic
Fatigue Syndrome. Some doctors claim that continual
minimal dehydration can cause cardiovascular and renal
problems, obesity and high blood pressure.
People tend to drink less as they get older, yet
dehydration in the elderly can lead to reduced mental
functioning, reduced resistance to infectious disease,
kidney stones and constipation.
The World Health Organization recommends that an adult
drink about eight large glasses of water every day.
Though children are smaller, they run around more than
adults and they, too, need to drink sufficient water
every day. So if your child complains that he feels
unusually tired, has a headache, or his teacher
complains that he seems to be listless and inattentive,
the first question should be, "How much water did you