The majority of us love the hot weather, but there are risks attached to the heat – and dehydration is one them.
Registered GP Dr Kenny Livingstone tells HuffPost UK received calls from “a lot more patients complaining of headaches, lethargy and tiredness” during the heatwaves we’ve experienced in recent years.
“It’s almost undoubtedly related to people not drinking enough fluids,” explains Dr Livingstone, who is chief medical officer of private home visit service ZoomDoc. “We’re just not used to these temperatures in the UK, so it has caught a lot of people off guard.”
Even warmer summer days after a cooler than usual spring can throw us off balance when it comes to keeping ourselves hydrated. Here’s what you need to know about dehydration: both the warning signs, and what to do about it.
What is dehydration?
Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water. As such, treatment often revolves around drinking more fluids - although in some instances this can be difficult, for example when a person has a vomiting bug.
Symptoms of dehydration:
Dark yellow and strong smelling urine,
Feeling dizzy or lightheaded,
Dry mouth, lips and eyes,
Sweating less than usual,
Urinating fewer than four times a day.
What should you do if you’re dehydrated?
The general advice around curbing dehydration is taking sips of water, little and often, and gradually building up the amount you drink. It’s also worth eating foods that have a higher water content such as cold soup, ice lollies, jelly or fruit like watermelon.
People who are sick or experiencing diarrhoea will need an extra helping hand and should visit their local pharmacist for some oral rehydration sachets to replace essential salt, minerals and liquids lost from the body. Dr Livingstone also recommends drinking flat cola to replenish salt and sugar in the body.
When your urine returns to a pale clear colour, that’s a sure sign you’re on the mend.
When to seek urgent help:
There are times when dehydration becomes a health threat and, as such, any of the below symptoms should warrant a trip to A&E (or calling 999) as you’ll need urgent treatment:
:: You feel unusually tired,
:: You’re confused and disorientated,
:: You feel dizzy when you stand up and it doesn’t go away,
:: You haven’t urinated for eight hours,
:: Your pulse is weak or rapid,
:: You’re having fits (seizures).
Symptoms among kids
Dr Livingstone says children and the elderly are the biggest risk groups during high temperatures. Children younger than six months old can get dehydrated very quickly, he adds. Symptoms in this age group include:
Drier nappies than normal (as they’re not urinating as much),
The soft spot on the top of the head (fontanelle) becoming quite sunken,
Crying but with very few tears.
For carers or parents of young children, it might help to spoonfeed them water, advises NHS Choices.
Fully breastfed babies don’t need any water until they’ve started eating solid foods as they will get all the hydration they need from breast milk. However, bottle-fed babies may need some extra water in hot weather.
For babies under six months, NHS Choices advises boiling then cooling water from the mains tap in your kitchen (as it’s not sterile straight from the tap). Water for babies over six months doesn’t need to be boiled.