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Medicine Chest: When the Well Runs Dry

There is an old proverb: You don't miss your water until your well runs dry. This is especially poignant when referring to the human body. An average person's body is approximately 70 percent water -- about 45 quarts! Water courses through every part of the body-blood, muscle and even bones. Water helps you live by regulating temperature, removing waste and carrying vital oxygen and nutrients.

As the summer sun approaches, its water-depriving heat threatens everyone. Should water go without replenishment for too long, dehydration may set in -- a dangerous condition that can lead to serious illness and even death.

What is Dehydration?
Dehydration is the loss of water and important blood salts. Organs such as the brain, kidneys and even the heart can fail to function without an adequate supply of water and salt. Water and salt can be lost through extreme sweating, diarrhea or by simply failing to drink enough water.

Signs of Dehydration
Dehydration can be broken out into three major stages: mild, moderate and severe. People with mild dehydration may feel thirsty and experience dry lips. Those with moderate dehydration may have extremely dry mouths, sunken eyes and skin that loses elasticity when slightly pinched and released. In severe cases, dehydrated people will experience all signs of moderate dehydration and may have rapid, weak pulses, cold extremities, rapid breathing, blue lips and confusion and lethargy.

How to Treat Dehydration
Severe dehydration requires an immediate trip to the hospital. Once evaluated, intravenous fluids (IVs) may quickly reverse dehydration. People with mild and moderate dehydration should consult a physician, who will likely prescribe appropriate dietary treatment.

While prolonged sun exposure often is the cause of dehydration, some other conditions may be the cause, including fever, vomiting and diarrhea.

Prevention
Drink plenty of fluids -- especially when in the sun. Schedule physical outdoor activities for cooler parts of the day. Monitor fluids: Humans should never lose more fluids than they take in.

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Medicine Chest: When the Well Runs Dry

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