I like to joke around with people from up here in South West of Idaho when they talk about the “hot” summers up here. They tell me about how hot it can get, and complain about how hot it will be and I just laugh and say “it doesn’t get hot up here.” It never ceases to surprise me to see the offended looks I get when I say that. I then proceed to explain how I grew up in the south west and how the high hot temperatures up here can sometimes be the overnight lows down there. I admit that I probably find this more amusing than the other person in the conversation, and that I should probably show a little more grace to everyone else’s temperature tolerances.
Regardless of where you grew up, staying hydrated all year around, especially in the summer, is extremely important. When it is warmer out it is important to keep water with you. Growing up in the South West we are taught to always have extra water in the car. This is for you or the car. When the temperatures rise above 115 degrees F, and sometimes into the 120’s, breaking down the in the middle of nowhere without water can kill you quick. To this day I still carry extra water in my car. This is a South West thing, and I think everyone I run into who grew up in the South West does the same thing. Just like people who grew up in the New England area all seem to have a roll of quarters in the car, because of all the toll roads back there. To give a recent example, my family and I (2 adults and 5 out of the 6 kids) were traveling south in the last week of May when our air conditioner went out. We were about an hour north of Las Vegas and it was already over 100 degrees. We have a large black van and only the front two windows go down. We still had 5 hours of driving to go and it was 2:30 in the afternoon, it was miserable. We all survived the trip and made it to our destination, but what saved us was water. I had 5 gallons of extra water packed in the back and we stopped at a place that allowed us to load up everyone’s thermos’ with ice for free. The ice kept us cool, but the water kept us alive.
Back to the title of this little piece; How much water is enough water? One should always strive to be fully hydrated at all times. My simple rule of thumb is every adult should be drinking about a gallon of water a day. It is easier for adults to keep hydrated because we understand the importance of it, but kids need those constant reminders to keep drinking water. If an adult is drinking about a gallon a day, kids should be drinking around ½ an ounce of water for every pound they weigh. Here is a list of signs that you or your child might be dehydrated:
- Concentration issues
- Excessive Thirst
- Irregular Heart Rate
- Joint and muscle pain
- Low Blood Pressure
- Mood Changes
- Rapid Breathing
- Weight Gain
When we are sweating a lot (like in a super hot car), it is also important to make sure we are consuming electrolytes. Electrolytes at the most basic chemical level help your body maintain balance. If you are sweating them all out, you need to be able to consume them back in. Sports drinks are a popular way to get electrolytes back into your system, except most of them are full of sugar and other chemicals. Getting electrolytes from good food sources and good water is better for you in the long run. Having too much or too little of a certain electrolyte can also be detrimental as well. Below is a list of the electrolytes with what can happen if you have too much or too little.
- Too much (hypernatremia): confusion, behavior changes, unusually strong muscle reflexes, loss of muscle control, seizure, and coma
- Too little (hyponatremia): confusion, irritability, weakened reflexes, nausea, vomiting, seizures, coma
- Too much (hypermagnesemia): Heart rhythm changes, weakened reflexes, decreased ability to breathe, cardiac arrest,
- Too little (hypomagnesemia): muscle weakness, twitching and loss of control, heart arrhythmias.
- Too much (hyperkalemia): weakness, inability to move muscles, confusion, irregular heart rhythms.
- Too little (hypokalemia): muscle weakness, cramps, feeling unusually thirsty and needing to pee a lot, dizziness or passing out when standing too quick. Severely low magnesium can cause rhabdomyolysis (muscle begin to break down and kidney damage)
- Too much (hypercalcemia): headache, fatigue, apathy, confusion, constipation, abdominal pain, vomiting, frequent need to pee, kidney stones, arrhythmias, pain in bones and joints
- Too little( hypocalcemia): confusion, behavior changes, unusually strong reflexes, loss of muscle control, muscle twitching, spasms in the throat muscles making it hard to speak or breath.
- Too much (hyperchloremia): can cause acidosis, nausea, vomiting, fatigue, rapid deeper breathing and confusion.
- Too little (hypochloremia): alkalosis, apathy, confusion, arrhythmias, muscle twitching and loss of control.
- Too much (hyperphosphatemia): usually experience hypocalcemia because your body tries to use calcium as a substitute for phosphorus.
- Too little (hypophosphatemia): muscle weakness, rhabdomyolysis, seizures, reduced heart function, trouble breathing
- Too much (alkalosis): confusion, apathy, arrhythmias, muscle twitching
- Too little (acidosis): fatigue, nausea, vomiting, you will breathe faster and deeper, confusion.
In these hot summer months, it is easier to get dehydrated and to lose those precious electrolytes that our body needs in order to function properly. Staying hydrated all year around and making sure it is a good habit will help you stay healthy through out those hot summer months. So, do not follow the advice of a popular beer commercial and stay thirsty my friend. Instead, stay hydrated.