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Staying Cool When It’s Hot - Avoiding Dehydration

With summer weather in full swing, it’s inevitable that everyone is going to want to get outside and start enjoying the warm weather. However, summer heat is accompanied by the serious risk of dehydration.

Dehydration is something that occurs when your body does not have as much water or fluids as it should. It can be mild, moderate or severe based upon how much of your body’s fluid has been lost. Severe dehydration can be a life-threatening emergency.

We spoke with Trish LaBaire, MD, Beth Israel Deaconess HealthCare physician, for her advice on dehydration.

Q: What causes dehydration and what are the symptoms?
According to the National Institutes of Health there are a number of reasons why your body may not have enough fluids and cause dehydration. You may not be drinking enough fluids or if you are sick, a fever, vomiting or diarrhea can cause dehydration. Persistent sweating, for example, from exercising in hot weather, is also a common cause of dehydration.

Symptoms of dehydration vary, depending on how severely dehydrated you may be. Those who are mildly or moderately dehydrated may experience thirst, dry mouth, not urinating much, darker yellow urine, dry/cool skin, headache and muscle cramps. Signs of severe dehydration include not urinating, dry/shriveled skin, confusion, dizziness or feeling lightheaded, rapid heartbeat, breathing rapidly, sunken eyes, shock or delirium.

Q: How is it treated?
Drinking water or sports drinks that have electrolytes in them can normally cure dehydration. When dehydration is recognized and treated quickly, a quick recovery should follow!

However, if the person's condition does not improve or gets worse despite treatment, he/she loses consciousness at any time, there is any other change in the person's alertness (i.e. confusion or seizures), the person has a fever over 102 °F, you notice symptoms of heatstroke (like rapid pulse or rapid breathing) you need to call 911 immediately as they may be severely dehydrated. Severe dehydration may require you to stay in the hospital and receive fluids through an IV. If left untreated, severe dehydration can lead to permanent brain damage or even death.

Q: Who is most at risk for dehydration?
Anyone can become dehydrated. Some groups that are more easily affected by dehydration include infants, older and elderly individuals, people with long-term health conditions like diabetes, and athletes who may be losing a lot of fluid through sweat, in a short amount of time.

Q: How can I prevent dehydration?
Sitting in the sun on a hot day will cause your body to need more fluids. The best way to stay hydrated is by drinking plenty of water. Sources of water also include foods - some fruits and vegetables contain a high percentage of water.

To learn more about staying hydrated, visit

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