Safe and well this summer - hydration
When the normal water content of our bodies is reduced, it upsets the balance of minerals (salts and sugars), which affects the way the body functions.
Symptoms of mild dehydration can include headache, thirst, and it can even affect how we feel and think. Mild dehydration is also associated with impaired concentration, poor decision making, reduced skill and accuracy, irritability and tiredness, and can be worsened in warm environments. As such, maintaining good hydration can contribute towards wellbeing, productivity and positivity in schools, in the workplace and the home.
If left untreated, severe dehydration can be serious and cause fits (seizures), brain damage and death.
Who is at risk from dehydration?
Anyone can become dehydrated, but certain groups are particularly at risk. These include:
- babies and infants – they have a low body weight and are sensitive to even small amounts of fluid loss
- older people – they may be less aware that they are becoming dehydrated and need to keep drinking fluids
- people with a long-term health condition
- athletes – they can lose a large amount of body fluid through sweat when exercising for long periods
Some of the early warning signs of dehydration include:
- feeling thirsty and lightheaded
- a dry mouth
- having dark coloured, strong-smelling urine
- passing urine less often than usual
What to do
- If you're dehydrated, drink plenty of fluids such as water, diluted squash or fruit juice. These are much more effective than large amounts of tea or coffee. Fizzy drinks may contain more sugar than you need and may be harder to take in large amounts
- If you're finding it difficult to keep water down because you're vomiting, try drinking small amounts more frequently
- Infants and small children who are dehydrated shouldn't be given large amounts of water alone as the main replacement fluid. This is because it can dilute the already low level of minerals in their body too much and lead to other problems. Instead, they should be given diluted squash or a rehydration solution (available from pharmacies). You might find a teaspoon or syringe can be helpful for getting fluid into a young child
- Children should aim to have 6-8 drinks per day which should ideally be water, milk or fruit/vegetable juices
- Children taking part in sports need to replenish the lost fluids by drinking more water.
- See your GP if your symptoms continue, despite drinking plenty of fluids, or if you think your baby or toddler is dehydrated
- Contact your GP, out-of-hours service or NHS 111 straight away if you have any of the following symptoms:
- extreme thirst
- feeling unusually tired (lethargic) or confused
- not passing urine for eight hours
- rapid heartbeat
- dizziness when you stand up that doesn't go away after a few seconds