Dehydration, Electrolytes, and Sports Drinks
With the summer season now upon us, temperatures around the world are rising and the chances of becoming dehydrated increases dramatically. Dehydration is when an excessive amount of water is lost from the body, often accompanied by an insufficiency in the amount of electrolytes in the body. Electrolytes are important chemicals that have essential roles in the body such as regulating the electrical charge in the cells of the body and controlling the flow of water in and out of cells. Examples of electrolytes include sodium, potassium, calcium, and magnesium. They also help regulate your heart beat and assist your muscles in contracting. When left untreated, dehydration can be dangerous in all age groups, especially children and older adults.
Causes of Dehydration
There are several reasons why dehydration may occur. It can be as simple as not drinking enough water through the day. Other causes can include:
- Excessive sweating (from heat and/or exercise) with fluids not being replaced
- Vomiting and diarrhea
- Excessive urination (seen with uncontrolled diabetes and use of medications such as diuretic and other medications)
Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration
There are many signs and symptoms of dehydration. It is important to note that feeling thirsty is a good indication of the need for fluid but it is not a sign of dehydration. Signs and symptoms of dehydration may include:
- Urinating less often than usual
- Dark-colored urine
- Dry skin
- Feeling tired
- Dizziness and fainting
- Dry or sticky mouth
- Rapid heart rate
- Low blood pressure
- Inability to produce tears
- Sunken eyes
- Muscle cramps
Signs and symptoms of dehydration in babies and young children include a dry mouth and tongue, crying without tears, no wet diapers for 3 hours or more, a high fever and being unusually sleepy or drowsy.
Prevention and Treatment of Dehydration
To prevent dehydration, it is important that drink water when feeling thirsty through the day. It is especially important when spending time outside on a warm day and/or when exercising. Try to avoid excessive heat if possible. To prevent dehydration caused by exercise, in fluid intake before, during, and after is necessary. If you are beginning to experience the signs of symptoms of dehydration, simply drink more water or fluids.
Sometimes replacing lost fluid with just water may not be sufficient because it does not contain electrolytes lost via intense or prolonged exercise. The Dietitians of Canada recommend that sports drinks (ex. Gatorade and Powerade) containing sugars, such as glucose and sucrose, and electrolytes to help replace electrolytes in situations of strenuous exercise less than 1 hour, endurance sports over 1 hour and when exercising in hot weather. Sports drinks are absorbed into the body as quickly as water and provides the energy needed for extended periods of exercise. Avoid drinks containing caffeine and alcohol, soft drinks, and fruit juices as they may worsen dehydration and cause an upset stomach.
Talk to your Health Care Professional
Some medications may cause increased fluid loss and lead to dehydration. It is important to talk to your pharmacist or physician about preventing dehydration as it can pose serious risks to your health.
- Sports Nutrition – What You Need to Know. Compendium of Therapeutics for Minor Ailments. Canadian Pharmacists Association (2016)
- Dehydration – US National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus. (2017)
- Dehydration comes on fast and can be fatal (2017, June 28).
- Selecting and Effectively Using Sports Drinks, Carbohydrate Gels, and Energy Bars. American College of Sports Medicine. (2017, June 28).
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This article was provided by the clinical pharmacy at Rx Infinity. Rx Infinity provides optimal and sustainable patient management solutions through customized programs, innovative technology and added value services that improve the overall patient experience; while helping payers and plan sponsors achieve sustainability in the management of drug plans expenditures.
This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions about your medical condition. Do not disregard professional medical advice or delay seeking advice or treatment because of something you have read here.