Don't Run Dry

Keep hydrated to avoid heat-related illness.

When the summer heat starts to take its toll on your body, remember to stay hydrated. Just like the planet earth, your body is more than 70 percent water. It is essential that you keep your body hydrated with the life-giving fluids that it needs to work properly.

You can control the climate in your cab, but in summer keep water on hand anyway because an unexpected job out in the heat might surprise you. And be ready for those hours of loading and unloading in the sun with water and an awareness that dehydration can happen quickly, without you noticing it at first.

When your body becomes depleted of the liquids it needs, a potentially serious condition called dehydration can occur. When your body loses more fluids than it takes in, the amount of water in your body drops below the adequate level for proper body functions. Fluids are most commonly lost through urine or sweat, and although most mild cases of dehydration usually go completely unnoticed, losing large amounts of water can cause serious damage to your body.

Dehydration can be caused by several things, but the most common is simply a lack of water. During exercise, we lose a much larger amount of fluids through sweat than we realize.

Sweating is your body’s way of keeping cool, so the hotter it is, the more sweat you produce. When you are sweating, it is necessary to drink almost twice as much water as usual to replenish your body’s fluids. Although average outdoor activities will not cause severe fluid depletion, when outdoor work is met with a lack of hydration, it can be dangerous. And summer heat plus the heat from your rig and surrounding rigs or industrial sites can leave you working in a high-heat situation.

Another cause of dehydration is gastrointestinal illness, which can cause you to lose large amounts of fluid through vomiting and diarrhea. After an illness, it is necessary to drink more fluids than usual for at least a week to be sure your body has replenished its liquid supply.

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Although it may be difficult to know for sure when dehydration occurs, thirst will be the earliest and best indicator. Although thirst will let you know to replenish your body’s fluid supply, when you feel thirst, mild dehydration has already occurred. When dehydration worsens, feeling dizzy or light-headed or having a dry mouth are sure signs. In the long term, producing less urine or darker urine can indicate a more serious problem. As the condition worsens, feelings of nausea or extreme fatigue will prevail, and at this point drinking fluids may not help. If weakness or sickness persists, a trip to the doctor may be necessary.

By far, the best way to avoid dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids. Though the common advice to drink eight glasses of water a day is widely considered a myth, you should use common sense and drink more on hot, dry or windy days or when you will be working. Of course, water is the best liquid for boosting your immune system and giving your body what it needs. Other excellent alternatives are sports drinks, such as Gatorade, and juices that contain vitamin C. Many people prefer water simply because it has no calories or fat.

No matter your drink of choice, make sure it is caffeine free, especially if you are not a regular caffeine drinker. Caffeine is a diuretic, which makes you expel more water from your body than usual, so if you consume caffeine while you are dehydrated, it can actually worsen your condition. Remember, even tea contains a significant amount of caffeine.

Another simple suggestion for avoiding drying out is to dress in cool clothing. Naturally, we sweat more when we are hot, so avoiding clothing that makes you warmer is essential on a hot day. Wear loose-fitting clothing in materials that breathe – like cotton – and sun hats to keep your head cool.

On rare occasions, dehydration and dizziness may be a sign of something more serious, possibly diabetes, so a doctor’s visit may be in order.

Tips to Prevent Dehydration

  • Pay attention to your thirst; it is a sign you are dehydrated and need to replenish your body’s liquids.
  • Drink plenty of fluids. Water and caffeine-free drinks are best.
  • Wear loose-fitting, cotton clothing to help whisk sweat away.
  • Avoid working in the sun in the hottest part of the day.

–Kathryn Tuggle

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