Tips for Tackling Dehydration

I recently returned from the FCA National in Orlando where, again, they put on one of the best conventions and educational opportunities ever for teaching and learning.

I was involved with a sports track, teaching with some of the best of the best. While the other instructors had great hands-on topics, I was excited to present “Preventing Dehydration and Heat Related Illness.” Although it’s one of my favorite topics to speak about when I address coaches, parents and youth athletes, I was concerned that my fellow DC’s might find it a little, well…dry. But to my pleasant surprise, the talk was very well received and the DC’s in attendance provided immediate positive feedback.

Given the current climate, and in light of recent events in the sports world, the topic is certainly appropriate.

Doing that workshop really made it clear to me that we, as a profession, do not do enough to educate the public about the effects of dehydration and heat-related illness. On an individual level, how many of your day-to-day patients are presenting to you with symptoms that could be related to dehydration? Educating them could be another tool in your belt that may aid them in their recovery from almost any condition. The numbers are clear. You do not have to be an athlete to suffer from dehydration.

So let me leave you with a few tips to help you understand more and, more importantly, to teach your patients and the community:

  1. Make them aware of the complications of dehydration. Discuss the most obvious and less severe short term conditions like muscle cramps and possibly heat exhaustion. Both are very preventable and proper hydration plays a major role. As you know, heat stroke is much more severe and usually not directly related to dehydration alone. There are many more long term effects of dehydration that can lead to more serious conditions.
  2. How do you know if someone is dehydrated? First thing to do is ask. In the office, we will typically ask the average patient what their work/exercise habits are, as well as their drinking habits. Is there a balance? Fatigue, lethargy, and headache, as well as a yellower tinted urine are very good indicators.
  3. Prevention… here are a couple of tips: (1) if you are thirsty, it is too late – you are already dehydrated. (2) If you have an upcoming event to train for, start hydrating the day before. (3) Rehydrate – You only have a short time after an event to rehydrate before damage is done. There are formulas to figure out exactly how much to rehydrate, but if we are talking about kids – they are not measuring weight loss coming off the field. Just get them to drink! Short events? Water is just fine. For longer-lasting events, mix in some carbohydrate beverages.

Learning what it takes to hydrate, maintain hydration and rehydrate are keys to a happy and healthy lifestyle. So get your patients to drink up!

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