As we enter into the summer months, it is important to remember the importance of water, the miracle molecule. Water is important for nearly every function inside your body, from transporting energy to your cells, to keeping your body cool. Having worked as a camp counselor for several years, I’ve seen and suffered from dehydration first hand, and I’ll tell you: it is miserable. Luckily, it is simply fixed.
A few fun facts about water:
Water is a polar molecule that has a 105° angle between its hydrogen molecules.
Humans are roughly 55% to 65% water, depending on body type.
Water is vital for cooling the body, transporting nutrients, controlling muscle movement, and more.
Its solid form (ice) is lighter than its liquid form (water) due to its crystal lattice.
Its polarity causes water to be a fantastic solvent.
And now that you know why water is so interesting, let’s learn why it’s so important to stay hydrated.
Dehydration can rear its ugly head in a number of ways, some more severe than others.
Also known as heat exhaustion. This is normally easily treated and only results in discomfort. It is caused by a combination of a loss of water and salts.
Crankiness and irritability – a precursor to the major pain to come. Your body recognizes that things aren’t quite right, and as a result, you feel uncomfortable, and in my case, cranky.
Lethargy – every action you do costs energy from your body, and every time your cells produce energy, they also consume and dispel water. Less water means less energy.
Cotton mouth – when dehydration gets bad enough, your body begins rationing the water that it has available. Your organs are more important to keep moist than your mouth, resulting in unpleasant saliva, and bad breath.
Headache – if you get dehydrated enough, you will get a headache that can start as a mild discomfort, but without water soon, can quickly escalate to the equivalent of having a monkey with a hammer trying to get out of your head.
Heat Cramps – without proper electrolytes and fluid, your muscles will start acting irregularly, leading to painful cramps.
Heat exhaustion is fairly easily treated. All it takes is to remove oneself from the heat by getting under some shade and rehydrating. Try to replace your lost water and salt with water, a sports drink, or fruits like oranges or peaches. Avoid soda however; its high sugar content may make you even thirstier. But remember, the best protection from dehydration is prevention; a general rule for me was to have two tall glasses of water before I had my first glass or can of soda for the day.
In severe cases, dehydration can lead to the more serious condition: heat stroke. You can recognize heat stroke by the following:
Some body parts are hot and dry, while others are wet and clammy
Disorientation, confusion, and hallucination may occur
Extremely high body temperature
Heat stroke is extremely dangerous and should be treated immediately, so if you suspect someone is suffering from it, try to rehydrate them and get them to a hospital. Again, remove them from a heat source and try to cool them by giving them water and fanning them.