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Avoid Dehydration to Prevent Heat Exhaustion or Stroke

Hot summer months mean lots of outdoor activities, lots of time in the sun, and lots and lots of sweating - perfect ingredients for a dangerous case of dehydration, which can lead to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.

The best way to stop dehydration? Take preemptive steps to prevent it. Drink lots of water, and stay hydrated. On an average day, for an average person, the recommended fluid amount is three quarts of water - if you’re out in the sun or the heat, increase this amount.

Aside from keeping yourself hydrated, the next best thing to do is learn the symptoms and warning signs, so that at the first recognition, you can take action to prevent the situation from worsening.

Symptoms of dehydration in adults include:

  • Unusual thirst

  • Less frequent urination, or dark-colored urine

  • Dry skin, especially when one would ordinarily be sweating

  • Fatigue, dizziness, fainting

Symptoms of dehydration in children and infants include the same ones as those found in adults, with a few additions:

  • Dry mouth/tongue

  • No wet diapers for over three hours

  • Crying without tears

  • High fever

  • Being unusually tired

If any of these signs are observed, encourage the symptomatic person to go into a cool place, or at least go into shade, out of the hot sun. Then, be sure to offer fluids, urge the person to lie down or to rest, and, if available, encourage them to shower, bathe, or sponge off with a cold compress.

Mild dehydration is best treated with small amounts of fluid often, rather than forcing large amounts all at once. Electrolyte solutions (like sports drinks, or similar products) and freezer pops are also helpful.

Once a person becomes dehydrated, they are at risk for heat stroke or heat exhaustion. Stay alert for the symptoms:

  • Body temperature above 104 degrees

  • Confusion or bizarre behavior

  • Strong, rapid pulse

  • Lack of sweating

  • Faintness or unconsciousness

If any of these are observed, medical assistance may be necessary. Typical treatment consists of the administration of intravenous fluids and a hospital stay. If heat-related illnesses go untreated, seizures, permanent brain damage, or even death can occur.

Remember: dehydration and heat exhaustion are 100 percent preventable by being smart and sun-savvy! Drink water and embrace the shade - it’s all about the balance.

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