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by Prof. Meenakshi Bhattacharjee
With temperatures soaring across the U.S., the danger of dehydration is at its seasonal peak. Anyone can become dehydrated, but those at a higher risk include infants, young children, older adults, people with chronic illnesses, endurance athletes and people living at high altitudes. Some common causes of dehydration are vigorous exercise in hot weather, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating and increased urination, exposure to the sun, drinking less quantities of water etc.
The symptoms differ depending on whether the condition is mild or severe. Some symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration are dry mouth, fatigue, thirst, less urination, dry skin, headaches, constipation, muscle cramps and dizziness or lightheadedness.
Symptoms of severe or chronic dehydration are extreme thirst, confusion, little or no urination, sunken eyes, very dry mouth, dry skin that lacks elasticity, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing and even delirium or unconsciousness. Treatment in the Emergency Department centers first concentrate on restoring fluid (blood) volume and electrolytes, and treating any life-threatening symptoms while also trying to determine the underlying cause(s) of the dehydration. If the affected individual’s core body temperature is greater than 104 o F (40 o C), doctors will cool the entire body. They may promote cooling by evaporation with mists and fans or cooling blankets and baths.
Increase Your Water Intake
The first step to treat dehydration is increasing your water intake. Water is usually enough to rehydrate adults. You should drink sufficient water even if you do not feel particularly thirsty.
Sip small amounts of water and clear fluids throughout the day. Drink carbohydrate- or electrolyte-containing drinks. Suck on popsicles made from juices and sports drinks. Suck on freeze bottled water or ice chips at frequent intervals. According to the Institute of Medicine, healthy adult men living in a temperate climate need an adequate intake of about 13 cups (3 liters) of total beverages in a day. Healthy adult women need about 9 cups (2.2 liters) of total beverages a day.
Prompt restoration of lost fluids and minerals is important when suffering from dehydration. One easy way to achieve this is with a homemade oral rehydration solution (ORS). Add ½ teaspoon of salt and 6 teaspoons of sugar (or brown sugar) to 4 cups of drinking water. Stir thoroughly until the salt and sugar dissolve completely. Drink this homemade ORS several times a day until you recover completely. You can also buy ORS that are approved by the World Health Organization (WHO).
Yogurt is an effective remedy for dehydration due to diarrhea or vomiting. It is a good source of electrolytes. In addition, it is soothing to the stomach and easily digested. Eat a cup of plain yogurt a few times a day. You can also add a little cottage cheese in it. Another option is to eat plain boiled rice with yogurt and a little salt.
Watery Fruits and Vegetables
When suffering from mild to moderate dehydration, increase your intake of water-rich fruits and vegetables. According to a 2009 study done at the University of Aberdeen in Scotland, fruits and vegetables that are high in water content hydrate the body twice as effectively as a glass of water.
Such fruits and vegetables contain hydrating salts, minerals and sugars; hence they work in a way similar to the isotonic drinks favored by athletes. Some fruits and vegetables with high water content are watermelon, cantaloupe, grapefruit, oranges, strawberries, cucumber, grapes, papaya, celery, lettuce, radishes, spinach, zucchini and tomatoes. Eat these foods as snacks or add them to your salads and smoothies.
Bananas are another fruit that you can eat to treat mild dehydration. Dehydration causes loss of minerals like potassium in the body. Being rich in potassium, bananas can help restore this important mineral. In addition, it helps restore normal functioning of cramped muscles, which occur due to excess water loss in the body. Eat 1 to 2 bananas during the day. You can also drink banana smoothies.
Having a glass of coconut water can also help treat dehydration. The high electrolytes in coconut water make it a very hydrating drink. It is also relatively low in calories and sugar. According to a 2012 study published in the Journal of the International Society of Sports Nutrition, coconut water has a positive effect similar to sports drinks. Drink a glass of tender coconut water a few times daily to rehydrate your body. As coconut water is rapidly absorbed by the cells, you will see quick results.
A sound intervention option for dehydration is to feed the patient rice gruel. Rice gruel or congee is a thick rice porridge which is very popular in South Asian countries. In fact, in many Asian countries rice gruel is fed to patients suffering from diarrhea induced dehydration. Feed the dehydrated person rice gruel with a pinch of salt to normalize the electrolyte levels of the body. Rice gruel prepared from brown rice can replenish the depleted energy levels of the body due to dehydration.
This is a little known home remedy for dehydration. People suffering from mild to moderate dehydration are asked to lie down and relax in an Epsom bath for ten to fifteen minutes. Epsom salts contain high amounts of magnesium. The magnesium which is absorbed by the body through the skin helps to counter the numerous negative symptoms of dehydration including extreme fatigue and muscle soreness.
As mentioned earlier, excessive sweating after doing some rigorous activity or performing a high intensity exercise routine can lead to mild dehydration. People exhibiting the classic symptoms of mild dehydration should be fed salty food like cracker biscuits, salted nuts and / or pretzel. In addition to eating the salty food, drink plenty of clean water as well. Consuming that extra amount of salt when you are dehydrated helps to regularize the electrolyte balance of the body. You can also add a pinch of salt to your drinking water to counter the ill effects of dehydration.
Buttermilk is an excellent home remedy for dehydration. Drink freshly prepared buttermilk to re hydrate the body and to normalize the electrolyte imbalance. Spike the buttermilk with some dried ginger and a pinch of salt for added taste. You should drink buttermilk several times a day to recover from mild to moderate dehydration.