Even if you’re not experiencing a heatwave or working out, it’s important to make sure that you’re always staying hydrated. Every part of your body, from your cells to your muscles to your brain, rely on water to function properly and keep your body healthy. Dehydration can be a serious health concern, so it’s important to be able to recognize the signs and symptoms.
If you feel thirsty, that means you are already beginning to experience the first symptoms of dehydration. Try drinking more water, or, if you’re sweating a lot such as when you are working out, a drink with electrolytes like a sports drink. If you’re exercising or spending a lot of time in the sun, you’ll lose water more quickly, so it’s important to plan accordingly so that you don’t become thirsty and therefore dehydrated.
Fatigue or Disorientation
Dehydration can impair your clarity or ability to think. Even if you haven’t gone past the stage of just feeling thirsty, which is very minor dehydration, you can still feel the mental and functional effects of dehydration. If you reach this stage of dehydration, you can feel forgetful, less alert, or even sleepy as your body begins to try to work harder to make up for the lack of water. If you become disorientated, that can be more worrisome than just fatigue. At that point, you need to take a break and rehydrate soon, if not immediately. Otherwise, you can risk collapsing.
When you’re dehydrated, the cells that make up your brain tissue won’t function properly. This means that your brain can actually shrivel up, though not dramatically. However, even the slightest motion of your brain moving in a way it’s not supposed to can trigger pain. If you begin to experience a headache, take a moment to drink a glass or two of water.
When you become dehydrated, you also lose sweat. Both of these factors combined can produce a tight feeling in your muscles that is different than your average post-workout cramps. Your muscles are composed of cells that need water to carry out basic functions such as respiration (that’s the official term for the transport of oxygen in your body). Without water, your muscles will weaken. This is not only harmful if not taken care of immediately, but it can also damage your muscles if dehydration persists for an extended period of time. At this point, water only will most likely not be enough to rehydrate you. A sports drink or any other drink with electrolytes will, however, as they have both the water and salt your body needs to fully hydrate.
This is one of the well-known signs of dehydration. If your urine is darker than apple juice, you are dehydrated and need to stop what you’re doing and begin working on rehydrating. If there is blood in your urine, you will most likely need to visit a health provider to make sure there is no major damage. Healthy, hydrated urine should be a light yellow that isn’t clear or dark.