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April is Occupational Therapy Month so we thought that we would dedicate a blog to your understanding of what occupational therapy (OT) is in relation to physical therapy (PT).  As a PT, I have heard many frustrating things throughout my career.  One particular statement that has always bothered me is that physical therapists (PTs) work with lower extremities and occupational therapists (OTs) work with upper extremities.  While this is true, PTs can work with lower extremities and OTs can work with upper extremities; that is not all that we do.  I cannot count the number of shoulders, elbows, wrists, and hands that I have treated as a PT; so how then am I restricted to working only with the lower extremity?  In fact, hand therapy in particular is a specialization that both a PT and an OT can have.  OT is a highly valued health care profession that works closely with PT in many capacities.  General misconceptions about the two professions can create some friction, so let’s explore the similarities and differences between these two areas of rehabilitation.

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Read more: What is Physical Therapy vs. Occupational Therapy?

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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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.