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Stay Properly Hydrated In Summers Heat


Record temperatures bring disturbing news reports of heat-related deaths and the familiar calls to seek shade, limit outside work, and drink large quantities of water. But experts caution that water alone may not be sufficient and if consumed in excess, could actually increase your risk of severe heat related injuries.


As we perspire, the body loses both water and electrolytes. The proper balance of electrolytes in the human body is essential for normal function of the cells and organs. They help to regulate cardiovascular and neurological functions, fluid balance, and oxygen delivery. When the body loses electrolytes, like sodium and potassium, over-rehydration with only water can produce hyponatremia — a serious condition with symptoms similar to those of heat exhaustion and heat stroke that can often be overlooked. Symptoms range from mild to severe and can include nausea, muscle cramps, disorientation, confusion, seizures, coma, and death. Severe cases require immediate treatment.


According to David McCarron, MD, FACP, adjunct professor at University of California Davis, “You must also replace the sodium and potassium along with the water. This is why athletes drink sports drinks like Gatorade, rather than just water. Replacing water without sufficient sodium can quickly produce hyponatremia, a potentially fatal condition,” says McCarron.


Water intoxication is usually seen among extreme athletes, but older individuals are also at high risk for several reasons. Their kidneys are less efficient at conserving salt when the body is stressed and common medications such as diuretics greatly increase that risk. That is why during severe high temperatures, news accounts most often refer to elderly victims of the heat.  


So the next time the local meteorologist recommends cranking up the air conditioner and drinking a lot of water to beat the heat, remember that doctors recommend also cranking up your intake of electrolytes.   ARA CONTENT


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