As summer rolls on, so too does the warmer weather. In many parts of Australia, temperatures can reach extreme levels. And with those higher temperatures, the risk of heat-related illness, particularly dehydration, rises. Dehydration can affect anyone,­ regardless of age or medical history.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration occurs when you lose or use more fluid than you take in and the body doesn’t have enough water to function properly. But dehydration is not just a loss of water, it’s also a loss of electrolytes. Electrolytes are minerals–chloride, potassium and sodium for example–that are needed for maintaining muscle function and other important bodily functions.

Our bodies are about 70% water. From our bones to our heart, water is responsible for maintaining blood circulation as well as supplying our bodies with essential nutrients and removing waste.

However, we lose water every day when we sweat or go to the bathroom, for example and our body does not store water, so it’s important to keep replacing what we lose.

Not drinking enough water, increased sweating—due to hot weather, exercise or illness—diarrhoea and vomiting can cause dehydration. But so too can increased urination caused by medication or medical conditions.

How do I know if I’m dehydrated?

The most common symptoms of dehydration are a dry mouth and feeling thirsty.

Other dehydration symptoms include:

  • headache
  • dry skin
  • tiredness
  • dizziness
  • constipation
  • light-headedness
  • passing less urine than normal
  • cramping in the arms and legs

If these symptoms worsen or last for more than an hour, immediate medical attention is highly advised.

Helpful hints to stay hydrated:

  • Drink plenty of water. Try keeping a drink bottle with you throughout the day and take regular sips.
  • Water isn’t the only fluid that will keep you hydrated.  Try milk, fruit juice, cordial, vegetable juice, soup or hot chocolate.
  • Eat plenty of fruit and vegetables as they contain both water and other nutrients including potassium. Try watermelon, strawberries, celery, cucumber or rockmelon.
  • Eat other fluid rich foods like icy poles, custard, jelly, ice cream and yoghurt.
  • Try to limit coffee and tea. If you do have a coffee or tea, drink a glass of water afterwards.
  • Avoid soft drinks or caffeine-based drinks, which can trigger urge incontinence in some people with bladder dysfunction and can promote dehydration.
  • Try to limit any alcoholic drinks.
  • Do any exercise or outdoor activities in the early morning or evening to avoid excessive exposure to the hottest part of the day.
  • If you do any exercise or outdoor activities, make sure you take a drink bottle with you and sip water regularly.
  • Sunburn stops your body from cooling itself down properly so wear sunscreen and a hat to protect your head, neck, ears and face.
  • Wear thin, loose clothing to help sweat evaporate. Avoid wearing dark clothes which absorb more heat than light clothing.
  • Pay attention to the colour of your urine as this is a good way to see how hydrated you are. If you are well hydrated, your urine will generally be clear, pale or straw-coloured. If it is dark yellow or amber in colour, this is a sign you need to up your fluid intake.

Please note the information supplied is general in nature. Please consult your medical practitioner for individual advice. 

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