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Hydration, dehydration, and heatstroke

Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen MartinReviewed on 19.10.2023 | 2 minutes read
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Ensuring adequate hydration to help our bodies remain healthy can be a tough task, especially in hot conditions, and during strenuous activities or exercise. Hot temperatures and increased water and salt losses can lead to dehydration. Mild dehydration may be felt as thirst, headache, mild dizziness, reduced need to urinate, and dry skin. In its more severe form, dehydration can result in reduced alertness, fatigue, muscle cramps, loss of consciousness, and long-term damage to your kidneys.

Doctor’s advice

What to watch out for

Inadequate intake of fluids is a leading cause of dehydration, with many people needing to ensure that they have the recommended 8-10 cups of fluids a day. Mild dehydration during the summer months is very common; however, if combined with a high amount of sun exposure, it can result in heat exhaustion or heatstroke.

Symptoms of heat exhaustion include headache, dizziness, nausea or vomiting, and high temperature. If this occurs, the person needs to be cooled down with cool drinking water and moist tepid sponges applied to the face and body. Don’t use ice packs. If this does not result in an improvement in symptoms within 30 minutes, they may be at risk of developing heatstroke.

What are the symptoms of heatstroke?

Symptoms of heatstroke include confusion, not sweating despite feeling hot, high temperature (usually over 104F), drowsiness and reduced consciousness, and in severe cases, seizures. Anyone with these symptoms needs to be treated as an emergency and should be transferred to a hospital without delay.

How can I avoid dehydration?

Dehydration can be prevented with regular fluids and increased awareness of activities that can result in dehydration, such as exercise and alcohol use. Although water and fluids from other drinks are often sufficient, some drinks are marketed as providing additional hydration and salt depletion support for those competing in regular sporting activities.

If you have already become dehydrated, then oral rehydration salts mixed with water can help replace the water and essential salts that your body needs for brain and body functioning. If you have diarrhea, it is recommended that you have a sachet after each loose stool, while not exceeding the recommended dosages.

When should I see my doctor?

If you have been unable to keep down fluids for over 12 hours or have had severe diarrhea, or are feeling weak, then it is best to be seen by your doctor. If you have any of the symptoms of heatstroke, then you should go to the hospital without delay.

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This article has been written by UK-based doctors and pharmacists, so some advice may not apply to US users and some suggested treatments may not be available. For more information, please see our T&Cs.
Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed by Dr Karen Martin
Reviewed on 19.10.2023
EmailFacebookPinterestTwitter
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