agh_logoIf you or your loved ones are outside and active this summer, make sure to avoid dehydration. Here are Ottawa Valley Family Health Team physician Dr. Karen Turcotte’s answers to frequently asked questions about dehydration.

What is dehydration?

“Dehydration means you are not replenishing the fluids you are losing through sweating,” says Dr. Turcotte. “You can also lose fluids through a diarrheal illness.”

Is it harmful to your health?

“Mild dehydration is not serious,” she says. “However, severe dehydration can lead to seizures, loss of consciousness, dizziness or even death.”

 Is being thirsty a warning sign of dehydration?

“Thirst is a good indicator in a healthy person,” explains Dr. Turcotte. “However, it may not be a reliable indicator in young children or the elderly.”

 What are the symptoms of dehydration?

“With a mild case of dehydration you may have a dry mouth, headache, urine that is a darker colour than normal, constipation, light-headedness and fatigue,” she says.

“Symptoms of severe dehydration include increased heart rate, dizziness, confusion, hot and dry skin, hallucinations and loss of consciousness.”

How can you prevent dehydration?

 “If you are losing fluids due to sweating or illness, drink water, juice or sports drinks to replace what you are losing,” advises Dr. Turcotte.

“If you are going outside, drink water before going out and replenish fluids on a regular basis. Find shade, wear a hat and light clothing and use sunscreen to reduce the amount of heat you are exposed to. Avoid vigorous exercise in the heat, especially between 10 a.m. and 3 p.m.” If you are inside, Dr. Turcotte suggests staying in an air-conditioned environment, if possible.

“It’s also important to limit your intake of caffeinated drinks and alcohol,” she adds. “They are dehydrating.”

Dr. Karen Turcotte is a family physician with the Ottawa Valley Family Health Team.