Avoid dehydration this summer
By Karen Caffarini For Sun-Times Media
Well watered: If a toddler has a mild case of dehydration, water should be sufficient. If the case is more severe, Pedialyte or a similar product is recommended by Dr. Anemaria Lutas, of the Methodist Physician Group. | Photo by Fotolia
Football players, toddlers and those over age 70 have one thing in common — they’re all at high risk for dehydration.
Dehydration is the term used when the body loses more water than it takes in, said Dr. Anemaria Lutas, a primary care physician at Methodist Physician Group in St. John, Ind. She said it can happen when someone sweats from exertion, vomits or has diarrhea from sickness.
“American football players have the highest risk of dehydration and heat exhaustion of all sports. They sweat more,” Lutas said.
Those who participate in endurance sports, including marathon runners, also are at high risk, especially if they live in a cooler climate and run in a warmer temperature, Lutas said. She said Olympic athletes will arrive in a location about a week or two before the games start in order to acclimate themselves to the new temperature.
Also at high risk are children under 4 who are sick with a virus, and elderly people, who can become dehydrated due to sickness, medications or because they don’t drink enough water.
When and how
Most cases occur in the summer during the heat and humidity, but the doctor said people can become dehydrated all year round.
“For the elderly, a combination of being inside with the heat up, making the air dry, taking blood pressure pills and not drinking water can make them dehydrated,” Lutas said.
Symptoms for adults include feeling thirsty, a dry mouth and feeling dizzy when standing up quickly, she said.
“If you feel your muscles cramp during exercise, it’s a sign you should stop. If you get abdominal cramps, you should stop. If you get blurred vision, feel like your head is in a fog and your mind isn’t clear, you should stop,” Lutas said.
Children will get more tired and lethargic, they’ll cry but there are no tears, their diapers aren’t wet.
If the toddler has a mild case of dehydration, giving them water should be sufficient. With more severe cases, Lutas recommends giving them one to two teaspoons of Pedialyte or a similar product every few minutes.
“You’ll know you did the right thing when your child becomes more alert and starts running again and urinating,” she said.
Getting wetter and better
If leisure walking or running a short distance, drinking water should be sufficient for adults. But if dehydration is caused by excessive sweating, in which the body is losing salt as well as water, the sodium in the body needs to be replenished. Lutas said sports drinks such as Gatorade and a product called World Health Organization solution, which is a packet consisting of sugar and salt to be mixed with water, are needed.
What you don’t want to drink when exerting a lot of energy are fitness drinks (such as Propel), juices, colas, tea or coffee.
In some cases, a trip to the emergency room may be necessary.
“If you try to give a child a teaspoon of Pedialyte and the child refuses or vomits what you gave them, they’ll need to get the solution in their veins,” she said.
Someone over the age of 70 who has diabetes or heart problems also should go to the hospital if they become dehydrated.
“Becoming dehydrated could worsen their kidney function,” Lutas said.