The heat is unbearable — the air thick with humidity, your skin slick with sweat. You’re parched, now, desperate for a drink. You know you haven’t been drinking enough water and can feel the physical effects taking their toll. You need to get out of the sun and get something to drink. Quickly.
Water is essential for our bodies to function, so what happens when you don’t get enough to drink? Especially in the summer months?
“Dehydration can cause a wide range of side effects that range from inconvenient and uncomfortable to dangerous,” says Chassie Harris, FNP-C, a nurse practitioner for Maury Regional Urgent Care in north Columbia. “That’s why it’s essential to drink water before, during and after spending extended amounts of time in the heat — particularly if you are exercising.”
Extreme thirst is one of the primary indicators that your body is dehydrated, but it’s not the only sign to watch out for, according to Harris. Other symptoms in adults include but are not limited to fatigue, dizziness, confusion, muscle cramps and infrequent urination or dark-colored urine. Because children can exhibit different dehydration symptoms from adults, it’s also important to watch out for dry mouth, no tears when crying, no wet diapers for three hours, sunken eyes/cheeks and listlessness or irritability.
“You should stop all activity, drink plenty of fluids and rest indoors or in a shaded space if you or a loved one experience symptoms of dehydration,” Harris says. “Call your doctor or visit a nearby urgent care clinic if your symptoms continue to escalate.”
Signs that your dehydration may be escalating include:
- Increased vomiting or an inability to keep down fluids
- A fever of more than 101 degrees
- Decreased urine production
- Diarrhea for more than 24 hours or bloody/black stools
Your doctor or urgent care provider can perform tests and, if necessary, provide fluid replacement.
If left unresolved, dehydration can lead to urinary and kidney problems — including urinary tract infections (UTIs), kidney stones or kidney failure — as well as heat injuries and seizures.
“With temperatures soaring during the summer months and people spending more time outdoors, it is important to plan ahead and be proactive when it comes to staying hydrated,” Harris says. “Always drink plenty of fluids throughout the day and choose foods with high amounts of water, such as fruits or vegetables, and avoid or limit caffeinated or alcoholic beverages. Ultimately, it’s important to listen to your body’s needs and act accordingly.”
Chassie Harris, FNP-C,
is a family nurse practitioner at the new Maury Regional Urgent Care location in north Columbia at 2478 Nashville Highway, Suite A.