Barely a week into the official summer season and the heat is on with parts of the country seeing temperatures of 120 degrees or more.
Besides being uncomfortable and energy-sapping, severe heat can cause serious, even life-threatening conditions such as heat stroke. When the thermometer soars over 90 degrees for a few days your body can struggle to maintain its optimum internal temperature of 98.6.
Older adults (65 years and older), infants and children and people with chronic medical conditions are more prone to heat-related health issues. Apart from air conditioning, the best defense against getting sick during a heat wave is water.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention states that it’s critical to drink cool, nonalcoholic beverages and increase your fluid intake, regardless of your activity level, during a heat wave. Thirst isn’t always the most reliable indicator that you are getting dehydrated.
Here are the most common signs of dehydration:
Bad breath: If you’re dehydrated, your body can’t produce the daily two-to-four pints of saliva necessary to keep your mouth and body healthy. Saliva is the mouth’s major defense against tooth decay, and also helps to control the bacteria and other microorganisms that live in your mouth. Too little saliva can cause accelerated tooth decay, gum disease, oral sores and pain, bad breath and even interfere with your ability to taste. Bad breath or a dry, sticky mouth are both signs that you may be dehydrated. Note though that both symptoms can indicate other dental and health problems, so if you are hydrated and still experience bad breath and dry mouth regularly, see your dentist.
Hunger: Mild dehydration can feel like hunger, when it’s really your body trying desperately to get you to give it fluids. If you’re getting snack attacks when the temperatures are high, try drinking a glass of water before you down a bowl of ice cream. By the way, dehydration can also slow your metabolism, so snacking instead of drinking water can also result in accelerated weight gain.
Fatigue/low energy: Your body conserves its resources when it feels threatened. Feeling tired can be a sign of dehydration, but can also indicate that your body wants to take it slow and easy in high temperatures. You may also find it difficult to sleep when its hot outside, resulting in fatigue. Whatever the cause, staying hydrated will help you feel better.
Reduced or no perspiration: Sweating is our bodies way of cooling down and regulating our internal core temperature. If we aren’t hydrated, we stop sweating. This is dangerous, as our bodies can’t cool themselves off, raising the risk of heat exhaustion or heat stroke.
Dark colored urine: Clear or light-colored urine is a good indicator that you are well hydrated, a dark yellow or amber color is a signal of dehydration.
Dry skin: If you notice your skin feels tight, itchy, flaky or just plain uncomfortable, up your fluid intake. Dehydration manifests fairly quickly in skin, especially if you are often slightly dehydrated on a regular basis.
Headache: When you’re severely dehydrated your brain tissue loses water and your brain actually shrinks and pulls away from your skull. Additionally, dehydration also lowers the flow of oxygen and blood to the brain, causing blood vessels in the brain to dilate. Your brain – which is 80% water – responds to this alarming state by triggering pain receptors, which gives you a headache.
Apart from the symptoms above, another way that you can check your hydration is called the “pinch” test: Gently pinch the skin of the back of your hand so that it resembles a tiny tent and hold it for a few seconds, then release. if the little tent stays raised for more than 5 seconds, there’s a good chance that you are dehydrated.
Severe dehydration -which is marked by mental confusion, rapid heartbeat and breathing, fever, and a drop in blood pressure – requires immediate medical attention. For moderate to mild dehydration, it’s usually sufficient to drink water or fluids such as oral rehydration solutions (CeraLyte, Pedialyte) or sports drinks and rest in a cool, dim room.
During a heatwave, cool water is always the best choice. The CDC says that “Don’t drink liquids that contain alcohol, or large amounts of sugar—these actually cause you to lose more body fluid. Also avoid very cold drinks, because they can cause stomach cramps.”
If you have a health question, a telemedicine plan provides 24/7, free access to locally licensed doctors and nurses. Find out more about telemedicine plans on dentalplans.com.