Dehydration happens when your body loses more fluid than you take in. When the normal water content of your body is reduced, it upsets the balance of minerals (salts and sugar) in your body, which affects the way that it functions. In the current hot weather we could all be at risk from dehydration but the vulnerable groups are babies and young children, the elderly,diabetics, alcoholics and athletes. Few see dehydration as a major problem in this country but minor problems could be widespread, including general sluggishness and headaches; severe dehydration if left untreated can cause fits, brain damage and death.

Yesterday on the hottest day of the year, two Territorial Army soldiers died in a gruelling SAS selection exercise including long runs in body armour while carrying weapons, ammunition and battlefield equipment weighing more than 100 lbs. A defence spokesman defended the exercise saying ‘We have health and safety procedures in place for everything but that must be balanced against the fact we are training people to go into extremely challenging environments.‘We don’t go out of our way to kill people but we have to put them in tough situations because that is what they will be facing on operations.’ But surely dehydration is so easy to prevent we should not be seeing deaths like these.The obvious treatment for minor dehydration, often considered the most effective, is drinking water and stopping fluid loss.In more severe cases, correction of a dehydrated state is accomplished by the replenishment of necessary water and electrolytes, a simple electrolyte drink can be home-made by using the correct proportions of water, sugar and salt.

Over-heated homes can also be a common cause of dehydration in Winter and Summer alike.Experts have warned that, “Temperatures could soar to dangerously high levels in some homes insulated under the government’s flagship Green Deal scheme. Homes in densely populated urban areas are most at risk because heat can build up during the day and has nowhere to escape at night leading to poor air quality and a greater risk of heat stress for the occupants.I Mediterranean countries, white building and shutters are commonplace to keep houses cool but few home-owners would adopt that principle here because heatwaves are usually so short-lived.In Winter most homes now have central heating at such a setting that families walk around inside in T-shirts even when the temperatures outside are sub-zero.This
can drain moisture from one’s body even more easily than the hot summer weather and dehydration is the result.In cold weather we lose moisture from our bodies because we lose more heat and so increase our respiratory evaporation. Humans lose a pint or more of water every day simply by breathing and, surprisingly perhaps ,this amount increases in cold weather.

It is easy to become dehydrated without realising, especially for children because they burn up more energy. Only 24% of UK school children drink enough water, according to a recent report.The fact is that by the time a person feels thirsty, they have probably already lost almost a pint from their total body water. Ideally you need to rehydrate before you feel thirsty; proper hydration may minimise chronic pains such as rheumatoid arthritis, lower back pain, migraines, and colitis as well as lower cholesterol and blood pressure so it is certainly worth having another glass of water.

Advertisements