It's humid and the temperatures are soaring; you've been working hard for
hours. You feel dizzy, have a pounding headache, and your intense thirst
suddenly reminds you that it's been hours since you've paused to drink
something. You may be dehydrated, and that can cause severe health problems if
About 60 percent of your body is made up of water. Water is essential to human
life; you need it to keep your body functioning properly and to regulate your
body temperature. It flushes out wastes and toxins, helps digestion, lubricates
the joints and eyes, and keeps skin healthy. You can't live without it.
When you don't drink enough fluids to replace the water that you lose through
sweating and everyday activity, you can become dehydrated. When the normal
water content of your body is reduced, it upsets your body's balance of
minerals (salts and sugar), which affects the way that it functions. Just a
small drop in body fluids will cause a loss of energy in the average person; a
15% drop in body fluids can cause death.
How you can become dehydrated
There are several factors that can contribute to dehydration: environment,
amount of physical activity, illnesses or health conditions, and diet.
Working outside in sun, heat, and humidity can cause you to sweat and lose
fluids rapidly. Heated indoor air also can also cause loss of fluids. Being in
high altitudes, greater than 2,500 meters (8,200 feet), may increase the amount
you urinate and quicken your breathing, in turn, using up more of your body
If you do strenuous work or intense exercise that causes you to sweat, you are
at increased risk for dehydration. You can also become dehydrated as a result
of an illness or a health condition. Fever, vomiting, or diarrhea cause your
body to lose additional fluids, as would a condition such as diabetes that
causes frequent urination.
Drinking too much alcohol can dehydrate you. As well, drinking sugary soda and
coffee to hydrate yourself can actually dehydrate you even more. These drinks
usually have caffeine in them which can cause you to urinate more. Also,
drinking anything loaded with sugar makes the body work hard to process it,
causing further dehydration.
Signs of dehydration
Dehydration can be described as mild, moderate or severe. Watch for the
MILD TO MODERATE
Moderate dehydration causes you to lose strength and stamina, and is the main
cause of heat exhaustion. You should be able to reverse this level of
dehydration yourself by drinking more fluids.
If dehydration is ongoing, it can affect your kidney function and cause kidney
stones, liver, joint and muscle damage, cholesterol problems, and constipation.
Untreated mild or moderate dehydration can lead to severe dehydration, which is
a medical emergency that requires immediate medical attention. Watch for the
Mental performance and concentration begin to decrease as you become
increasingly dehydrated, affecting the safety of yourself and those around you.
What employers can do to help prevent dehydration
Employers have a duty to provide and maintain a safe working environment.
What employees can do to prevent dehydration
The recommended daily intake of fluids can vary depending on the individual and
on factors such as age, climate, and physical activity.
If you or a co-worker begin to show signs or symptoms of dehydration, call for
medical help immediately. While you are waiting for help, move to a cool place
to rest. If not treated immediately, severe dehydration can lead to
complications and even death.
AplusA-online.de - Source: Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety