One of the things we have to be on top of while coping with the summer heat is proper hydration and electrolyte levels.

Your total body weight is comprised of anywhere from 45 to 70 percent water according to the National Strength and Conditioning Association.  Water is the largest component of your body so proper hydration is vital to your health and performance.

When electrolyte levels drop too low, severe loss of neuro-muscular function can incur along with increased blood acidity (fewer electrolytes are available to breakdown the lactic acid your muscles are producing). In essence, your body begins shutting down.

Estimating Daily Fluid and Electrolytes Needs:

Most doctors recommend drinking 8 to 9 cups of water per day to maintain proper hydration. It is easy for people to remember though this may not be enough fluids for many people. The Institute of Medicine recommends that men drink 13 cups or 3 liters of fluids per day and suggests women drink 9 cups or 2.2 liters per day. The most important thing is that you do not get thirsty as this is a sign that you are already dehydrated. If you are exercising your fluid requirements go up.  The typical athlete needs to consume a minimum of 20 to 40 fluid ounces per hour of activity.

Many people know sodium and chloride are among the body’s most important electrolytes (both help “excite” nerves and muscles), but don’t think dousing your food with table salt (sodium chloride) is the only key to proper electrolyte replacement.  Consider these other key electrolytes: Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium and Phosphate.

Make sure you’re using a sports drink that contains at least 250 mg of sodium per 20 ounces (100 mg per 8 ounces) in activities lasting more than an hour.

Heat Cramps

The loss of salt due to excessive sweating causes heat cramps. Symptoms are moderate to severe muscle cramps in legs, arms, or abdomen. These symptoms may start as a mild muscular discomfort. You should now stop all activity, get in the shade, and drink water. If you fail to recognize the early symptoms and continue your physical activity, you will have severe muscle cramps and pain. Treat as for heat exhausion, below.

Heat Exhaustion

A large loss of body water and salt causes heat exhaustion. Symptoms are headache, mental confusion, irritability, excessive sweating, weakness, dizziness, cramps, and pale, moist, cold (clammy) skin. Immediately get the patient under shade. Make him lie on a stretcher or similar item about 45 centimeters off the ground. Loosen his clothing. Sprinkle him with water and fan him. Have him drink small amounts of water every 3 minutes. Ensure he stays quiet and rests.

Heat Stroke

A severe heat injury caused by extreme loss of water and salt and the body’s inability to cool itself. The patient may die if not cooled immediately. Symptoms are the lack of sweat, hot and dry skin, headache, dizziness, fast pulse, nausea and vomiting, and mental confusion leading to unconsciousness. Immediately get the person to shade. Lay him on a stretcher or similar item about 45 centimeters off the ground. Loosen his clothing. Pour water on him (it does not matter if the water is polluted or brackish) and fan him. Massage his arms, legs, and body. If he regains consciousness, let him drink small amounts of water every 3 minutes.



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