Southwest heat wave 2022: How can you tell if you’re dehydrated?

As the southwestern United States prepares for a heat wave, knowing when you’re dehydrated can help save you from heat exhaustion, or even fatal illnesses like heatstroke.

A “dangerous” heat wave is on the way for millions of Americans living in the southwest, including Texas, Arizona, Nevada, and parts of California. Temperatures have already started to rise this week up to 110 degrees Fahrenheit (43 C), and are expected to peak throughout the weekend.

When temperatures rise, maintaining proper hydration is key to practicing heat safety. But how can you tell if someone, or yourself, is dehydrated?

Dehydration occurs when the body does not have enough water that it needs to properly function. Our bodies lose fluid throughout the day, which can be replaced by drinking or eating foods with water. But losing even the slightest amount of water in our bodies can still cause dehydration, and it doesn’t always take a heat wave to feel the symptoms.

Anyone may become dehydrated at any age, but it’s especially dangerous for young children and older adults. Our bodies tend to lose fluid quickly from fever, vomiting, diarrhea, or increased urination. But during a heat wave, excessive sweating can result in a loss of fluid and a need for more water.

A person may be dehydrated if they start to experience headaches, dizziness, fatigue, dry mouth, and of course, thirst. However, the signs and symptoms of dehydration might differ depending on age, and can be especially dangerous for young children or infants who may not be able to communicate that they’re thirsty. According to the Mayo Clinic, these signs include less frequent urination, dry mouth or tongue, sunken eyes or cheeks, no tears when crying, and a sunken soft spot on the top of their skull.

How do you treat dehydration? Well, by drinking water. But differences in treatment often depend on age, and the severity of the dehydration.

For mild cases, replacing lost fluids and electrolytes is the best way to recover from dehydration. A bottle of cold water is a go-to for recovering from dehydration, but sports drinks containing electrolytes may also be helpful.

More severe cases of dehydration may require medical attention, and treatments such as a liquid IV.

Dehydration is preventable. If you’re feeling thirsty, chances are you’re already mildly dehydrated. Before braving this week’s heat wave, keep in mind the signs and symptoms of dehydration.


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