As the summer months are here and the world begins to open up again, many of us will be out and about resuming our favourite activities. When we are busy, or experiencing warmer temperatures than usual, it can be easy to become dehydrated, meaning that your body is losing more fluids than it is taking in.
Most of the time, our bodies and brains will quickly tell us we need to take in more fluids, by a feeling of thirst, a dry mouth, or mild light-headedness. The problem is easily remedied by drinking water or other beverages until we feel like our normal selves again. But are there other symptoms of dehydration we should be aware of in ourselves and others?
For those of us susceptible to headaches and migraines, not drinking enough fluids can be a major trigger. This is because when you lose the correct balance of water and electrolytes which help the body to function properly, the brain can contract and pull against the skull. The pain may be felt at the front, back, or sides of the head.
Once lost fluids and electrolytes have been replenished in the body, the brain will return to its normal state.
2. Muscle cramps
When the body is short of fluids, it loses its ability to regulate temperature and cool off effectively. This can lead to muscle spasms and cramps, which are especially common when exercising during hot weather. They are caused by an imbalance of electrolyte levels and nutrients such as potassium or sodium.
Fluid also helps to keep your muscles flexible, making it easier for them to contract and relax, and keeping the cells hydrated. This is why it is important to sip water often during exercise, and to continue drinking water or other fluids afterwards.
3. Poor concentration
Your brain is more than 70% water, so staying hydrated is vital for optimum mental function. Dehydration affects levels of alertness, concentration, and memory. Studies have shown that even mild dehydration impairs cognitive function, making you perform worse at driving, vision, and memory tests.
4. Bad breath
When you are short of fluids, your mouth and tongue may feel dry and sticky. This is because your body cannot make enough saliva, which helps to remove bacterial growth in the mouth. You may notice an unpleasant taste in your mouth, which can be relieved by drinking water and brushing your teeth.
5. Changes to the skin
You can lose significant amounts of water through the skin, either by sweating in hot weather, or by being exposed to dry cold air. Signs that you are dehydrated include flushed or red skin; rough or flaking skin; cracked skin or lips; cold or clammy skin; loss of plumpness and elasticity.
6. A pounding heart
If you have a fast heartbeat and quick breathing, even at rest, then this may be caused by dehydration. This is because blood volume is lower when you are dehydrated, meaning the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood around your body.
Remember, all of the above symptoms may also be signs of other health problems, so if you are worried, you should always seek medical advice.
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