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            Volume 11 |Issue 14| April 06, 2012 |


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Dealing with Dehydration

Tamanna Khan

The Bengali month of Chaitra has set in with its characteristic roughness and dryness. The scorching heat, dry wind and dusty road have not only turned the landscape pale, but even the animals and birds desperately look for a cool shade and a little drop of water. Humans too have fallen prey to Chaitra's wrath. In fact, people often fall sick during this last month of the spring season and one common problem is dehydration.

Water is a critical element of the body, and adequate hydration is a must to allow the body to function. Up to 75 percent of the body's weight is made up of water. Most of the water is found within the cells of the body. The rest is found in the extracellular space, which consists of the blood vessels and the spaces between cells. Depending on variables such as activity and temperature, it takes an average of 1 to 2 litres of water to replenish the water our body loses in 24 hours through perspiration and urination. Consequently, the amount of water we need also depends on the volume of our perspiration and urine output.

Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids, mostly water than it should. In other words, more water moves out of our cells and then out of our bodies than the amount of water we take in through drinking. However, the body loses more than just water, it loses valuable electrolytes. Electrolytes are the smallest of chemicals that are important for the cells in our body to function and allow the body to work. Electrolytes such as sodium, potassium, and others generate electricity, contract muscles, move water and fluids within the body, and participate in myriad other activities.

Interestingly, a dehydrated state does not manifest itself only through thirst. The reason we feel tired so often during this season is also attributable to dehydration. Weakness, dizziness, sluggishness, fainting, palpitation and even confusion are symptoms of dehydration. Dehydration can also be a prime mover, as a headache or migraine trigger. Many people mistakenly think it occurs only in hot weather and that you're not dehydrated if you're not thirsty. Both of these are misconceptions. If you are not passing urine at your regular rate then you should be worried too, because it may mean that you are dehydrated. Even the urine colour may indicate dehydration. If urine is concentrated and deeply yellow or amber, you may be dehydrated.

Plenty of fluids can ward off the evils of dehydration. Photo: Zahedul I Khan

Heat plays a significant role in dehydration, inability to drink appropriate water and food and inaccessibility to water add to the causes of dehydration. The latter is especially true if you are stuck in the never-ending Dhaka traffic and you are not carrying a water bottle. Besides, if you are already suffering from fever, cold or flu or diarrhea then you should take care to drink lots of fluids. Diseases such as diabeties can also cause dehydration. Other causes include, vomiting, infections, injuries to skins such are mouth sores, burns or severe skin disease as water may be lost through the damaged skin.

So what should be done to deal with this unwanted gift of the season? Drink plenty of water and other fluids. Eat foods with high water content. Fruits contain the most water, followed by vegetables, meat, then grains with the least. Ironically, Chaitra's fruits and vegetables carry the remedy to dehydration. Water Melon, bangi (mashmelon), sugarcane are some of delicacies of Chaitra. A cold glass of water melon juice, sugarcane juice, or wood-apple juice even green mango juice with lots of ice can be a treat not to mention chilled pieces of bungi dipped in extra thin molasses syrup. However, you have to be careful about the water you are using. Make sure it is safe. For some people, too much fruit juice can cause diarrhea, which also can be dehydrating, leading to a temple headache. While juices are good, beverages may not be a wise choice. Caffeine and alcohol can be dehydrating. Some of Chaitra's vegetables too are good, according to elders. Shojne data (drumsticks) and lau (gourd) too have high water content and can help improve your Chaitra diet.

Other ways to avoid dehydration, is by planning outdoor activities during the cooler parts of the day or staying in shaded areas, although the latter is hard to find in the city. If you fall sick, then you must increase fluid intake especially oral saline. Oral saline contains water and salts in specific proportions to replenish both fluids and electrolytes. They are also designed for easier digestion. Begin taking fluids early in the course of an illness rather than waiting for the situation to get worse. However, if dehydration becomes severe, you should get medical help and go to the hospital, where you can receive salt and fluids intravenously rather than by mouth. Intravenous hydration provides the body with water and essential nutrients much more quickly than oral solutions do — something that is crucial in life-threatening situations.

While praying for rain is advisable, do not wait for the rain-water like chattaks (native birds that drink only rain water) in this heat. Drink lots of fluids and stay healthy.

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