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Summertime is right around the corner, and the kids want to play. Maybe your plans are to get some gardening done or visit every local park in your area. Maybe you have big plans for a family vacation, with trips to the beach and hiking included. No matter what you’re doing this summer, the warm weather and bright sun are going to fill you with energy and get your kids eager to go adventuring.

But all that activity outside can bring dehydration with it. The more time spent in the sun, the faster you dehydrate your body, and severe dehydration can contribute to emergency medical conditions like heat exhaustion and heat stroke.

What is dehydration?

Dehydration is the what happens when someone loses more fluids that they take in, meaning that your body no longer has enough water to carry out normal functions. This happens most notably when we’re exercising and start to get sweaty. Your body is losing fluid and water when it sweats, which means you need to take a rest and get some water!

Isn’t that the same as being thirsty?

While thirst is your body’s way of saying it needs some extra fluids, dehydration is much more than thirst. Think of your body’s hydration like a car’s fuel gauge. Thirst is when the fuel light comes on, warning you that it will run out soon. This means dehydration is what happens when your body’s fuel gauge goes to zero, and you are in drastic needs of fluids.

Symptoms of dehydration can include:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Less frequent urination
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion

–And in children or infants, the symptoms can also include:

  • Dry mouth or tongue
  • No tears when they cry
  • Sunken eyes or cheeks
  • Sunken soft spot on the top of the skull
  • Listlessness and irritability

All of these are more than simply being thirsty. If these symptoms persist, despite your efforts to drink fluids, then seek medical attention immediately.

What does dehydration do?

While we have discussed the symptoms of dehydration, it is also important to know what dehydration can cause. Since this condition comes from a lack of fluids, water, and sometimes even a lack of electrolytes, it can be a contributing factor in many emergency situations.

  • Heat Injuries: Water helps to regulate the body’s internal temperature, so when the temperature is high or you’re getting a lot of physical activity in, your body is bound to get hot—this is why you sweat! Without enough water, your body will overheat faster, and this could cause heat cramps, heat exhaustion, or even the life-threatening heatstroke.
  • Urinary and Kidney Problems: Since your kidneys process everything you drink, water always helps them to work quickly and healthier. If you’re suffering from prolonged dehydration, then this could hurt your kidneys and leave your body more susceptible to UTIs, kidney stones, or even kidney failure.
  • Seizures: When your body gets dehydrated, it often loses electrolytes as well. Electrolytes, like potassium and sodium, help the carry electrical signals between cells, and if they are out of balance, these electrical signals can get mixed up. This can lead to involuntary muscle contractions and even cause you to lose consciousness! This is why it is helpful to drink electrolyte replenishing sports drinks, as well as water, when rehydrating.
  • Hypovolemic Shock: This term refers to the occurrence of low blood pressure that results from a low blood volume in the body. Lower blood volume and lower blood pressure both restrict the spread of oxygen throughout the body, which makes hypovolemic shock an emergency medical condition. This condition can be caused by severe dehydration, though it takes usually takes a long time for dehydration to effect someone this strongly.

Dehydration might start as something small. Feeling very thirsty or getting a small headache in the middle of the day. But when dehydration is neglected, it can cause serious health emergencies. This is why it is important to drink water throughout the day, and make sure you have extra water and electrolyte heavy drinks with you when you spend a lot of time outside this summer.

In the case that any dehydration emergencies occur, don’t worry! New Braunfels ER is open 24/7, even on holidays, and is always ready to treat emergency medical conditions.

Nutex Health, Inc. supports you and your family’s health. Come visit New Braunfels ER or any one of our concierge-level freestanding facilities for the emergency care you deserve, 24 hours a day, 365 days a year.