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Our last blog discussed the signs of dehydration and the negative impacts that this condition can have on your body.  Now, let’s discuss what you can do about it.

So what is the best way to treat dehydration? Rather than treating the problem after it arises, staying properly hydrated throughout the day is the best way to combat dehydration. Every person is different based on body type, sweat production, climate, etc. so the standard principle of 8, 8-oz glasses of water per day does not necessarily hold true.  In order to calculate the minimal amount of water you should drink per day divide your body weight in half.  Whatever number you come up with is the number of ounces you should drink per day.  If you are more active throughout your day, then you should increase the number of ounces to approximately 2/3 rather than 1/2 of your body weight.  According to the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM), active people should drink 16-20 oz. (approx. 2-3 cups) of water 1-2 hours prior to outdoor activity and 6-12 oz. every 10-15 minutes while outside.  To replace the fluid that has been lost, it is recommended to drink another 16-24 oz. after activity.  For a more specific calculation of the amount of water to replenish, weigh yourself before and after exercise and drink a pint (16 oz.) of water for every pound that has been lost. 

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Read more: Hydration – It’s Not Just For Exercise! (continued)

Dehydration is more common than you think.  Just because you haven’t been outside exercising and sweating does not mean that you are well hydrated.  If you have felt thirsty at any point in your day, then you were dehydrated.  This level of dehydration may not be life threatening, but once you have reached the point of feeling thirsty, your hydration level is too low.  So what are the risks associated with dehydration and what can you do to stay hydrated?

Dehydration occurs when fluid is lost from the body faster than it is taken in.  General signs of dehydration include:

  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Thirst
  • Loss of appetite
  • Urine changes – decreased output or darkened color
  • Constipation
  • Skin changes – dry or flushed
  • Headache
  • Dizziness/lightheadedness
  • Dry cough
  • Heat intolerance

 

More extreme dehydration can cause the following symptoms:

  • Severe thirst
  • Dry mouth, skin, and mucus membranes – skin lacks elasticity
  • Lack of sweating or lack of tears when crying
  • Little or no urination
  • Sunken eyes
  • Sunken fontanels in infants
  • Low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, and rapid breathing
  • Fever
  • Irritability/confusion – delirium and unconsciousness in extreme cases

Severe dehydration is a medical emergency; therefore, being aware of these signs and symptoms is important.

So what kinds of problems can result from dehydration? Hydration is essential for proper function of the body’s organs.  One particular example is the heart.  When hydrated properly, blood is not as viscous (thick); therefore, the heart can pump it through the body easier and supply muscles with the oxygen they need for normal functioning.  When the blood is thick due to dehydration, more strain is placed on the heart while it pumps.  Serious complications related to dehydration can include:

  • Heat injury – ex. heat cramps, heat exhaustion, heatstroke
  • Swelling of the brain – can occur with rehydrating following dehydration
  • Seizures – can occur from electrolyte imbalance due to dehydration
  • Low blood volume shock – drop in blood volume can decrease the amount of oxygen in the body
  • Kidney failure – can occur when the kidneys no longer have to remove excess fluid/waste from the blood
  • Coma and death – can occur if dehydration is not treated quickly or appropriately

Certain factors can increase your risk of dehydration including diarrhea, vomiting, fever, excessive sweating, and increased urination.  If you have any of these problems, staying pro-active about hydrating is critical.

Stay tuned for our next blog which will discuss the best strategies for avoiding dehydration.

Resources:

http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/More/MyHeartandStrokeNews/Staying-Hydrated---Staying-Healthy_UCM_441180_Article.jsp

http://familydoctor.org/familydoctor/en/prevention-wellness/food-nutrition/nutrients/hydration-why-its-so-important.html

http://my.clevelandclinic.org/disorders/dehydration/hic_avoiding_dehydration.aspx

http://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/basics/definition/con-20030056

http://www.news-medical.net/health/Dehydration-What-is-Dehydration.aspx

http://www.pbs.org/americaswalking/fuel/fueldrinking.html

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It could be.  More and more, high school and even pre-teen students are practicing and playing only one sport year round in hopes of gaining a college scholarship or reaching an elite level of competition.  However there is no evidence that shows that intense training in one sport before puberty or in the early teen’s results in an improved ability to get that scholarship or achieve elite status. 

Injury may be more likely in one sport athletes, especially in pre-teens to mid-teens.  In my experience, I have seen a number of middle and high school students that play one sport competitively all year have recurrent and/or serious injuries at young ages.   Lack of diversity of activity/exercise can overstress some joints, ligaments, tendons and muscles, while others may be underutilized.  Even though many injuries heal more rapidly in youth, some injuries can cause serious or permanent damage.  An example would be a teen league pitcher that plays baseball all year long and may not have perfect form who injures the inside of his elbow to such an extent that surgical repair becomes necessary. 

Make sure you listen to your child when he or she complains of pain or an injury, and don’t force him or her to “play through the pain.”  I recall working at a state youth wrestling tournament a number of years ago when a 9 year old boy who was in tears complained to the referee about neck pain.  I was called over to examine the child and based on my professional exam as both an athletic trainer and a physical therapist, I recommended the child stop playing in order to prevent serious injury to the nerves going to his arm.  The child’s father went crazy, screaming and insisting that his child get out there and finish because his child was going to win and he couldn’t be “a wimp.”  Fortunately, the referee took my professional advice and called the match so the child did not get hurt further during that tournament.

Not only is there increased risk of physical injury, but there can also be a significantly greater amount of psychological stress and early burnout with the sport.  I believe there is often an excessive amount of pressure placed on some young athletes to excel that they no longer find enjoyment in playing that sport and end up quitting prior to having the chance to actually get the college scholarship or reach an elite level.

There are many ways to keep a child healthy, motivated and safe, while still working toward a scholarship.  Seek the advice of a professional and have your child learn correct training techniques.  Limit weekly and yearly participation in each sport/activity.  Overly aggressive training is just as harmful as improper training.

Remember, for most youth, sports should be about fun and fitness, not the push to get a scholarship or reach elite status.  Although we all watched Bode Miller get another medal in this year’s Olympics at age 36, the majority of elite athletes have short careers compared to their lifespan.  Teach your child to enjoy sports as a means of staying healthy.

Thank you for reading and stay active.  If you have any questions or suggestions for future topics, feel free to let us know.

Resources:

DiFiori J, Benjamin H, Luke A, et al. Overuse Injuries and Burnout in Youth Sports: A Position Statement from the American Medical Society for Sports Medicine. Clinical Journal Of Sport Medicine [serial online]. 2014;24(1):3-20.

Jayanthi N, Pinkham C, Dugas L, Patrick B, LaBella C. Sports Specialization in Young Athletes: Evidence-Based Recommendations. Sports Health: A Multidisciplinary Approach [serial online]. May 2013; 5(3):251-257

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Disclaimer:  The information in this medical library is intended for informational and educational purposes only and in no way should be taken to be the provision or practice of physical therapy, medical, or professional healthcare advice or services. The information should not be considered complete or exhaustive and should not be used for diagnostic or treatment purposes without first consulting with your physical therapist, physician or other healthcare provider. The owners of this website accept no responsibility for the misuse of information contained within this website.