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My Yak or Yours? Water - It's What Your Body Craves

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On: Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 12:53PM | By: Mel The Guide

YES, it’s HOT, HOT, HOT. The weatherman says that there have been more heat index records broken this year than any other year in recorded history. At the time of writing this column I heard the weatherman state that Texas has had temps over 100 degrees for the past 50 days in a row. That’s some heat. We here in southwest Florida have not been too far behind. At Gulf Coast Kayak we made our starting time for tours earlier and later than our normal launch times. We did more sunset and moonlight tours than we have in the past. All of which were a lot of fun, and we beat the heat. Some of us don’t care about the heat and just take a dip in the water to try to cool off. However, this time of the year the water temperature is like a warm bath. Not too much cooling off here. The elderly and very young have to watch out in this kind of heat. Folks who work outside are very prone to dehydration.

It’s recommended that, as we get older, women should drink 9 cups of water and men 13 cups of water a day. You should try to limit coffee, tea, and alcohol. Yea, a cold beer sounds good, but it’s a diuretic and it ups your risk of DEHYDRATION.

Under normal conditions we all lose some body water every day in our sweat, tears, urine, and stool. Water also evaporates from our skin, and leaves the body as a vapor when we breathe.

Why do we want to replace the water in our bodies as the heat rises????? Here are a few good ones: HEAT CRAMPS, HEAT STRESS, HEAT EXHAUSTION, AND HEAT STROKE.

I am sure you have heard these words before. However, what do they mean? In addition, how serious are they?

Heat stroke is a form of hyperthermia; this is where body temperature is elevated dramatically. In addition, yes, it can be FATAL.

Cooling the victim is critical; the most important measures to prevent heat stroke: Avoid becoming dehydrated. Avoid vigorous physical activity in hot and humid weather. Again elderly and infants are at great risk.

Heat cramps and heat exhaustion are less severe. Heat stroke, again, is fatal if not promptly treated. Hyperthermia is when the body temperature is 104F or higher. In simple terms your body can’t sweat fast enough to dissipate heat, and that causes the body temperature to rise.

So, what to look for? What are the symptoms of heat stroke?? Nausea, vomiting, fatigue, weakness, headache, muscle cramps, and dizziness. All not too pretty, and it sure could ruin a nice day on the water. Some folks have different symptoms: high temperature, hot red or flushed skin, absence of SWEAT, rapid pulse, difficulty breathing, strange behavior, hallucinations, confusion, agitation, and disorientation. Kind of like what you feel like in the morning after a rough night out with the gang.

Then we have heat cramps. Not as bad as heat stroke, still very painful. In addition, yes, this also comes from DEHYDRATION. Heat cramps are just what it sounds like major cramps, in your muscles. Like your thigh and legs, hamstrings, arms, and back. You may not even notice this until a few hours after a good paddle or a workout. Remember the body’s most effective way to deal with these problems is to sweat. Then the sweat evaporates and cools the body. So, that all said, how do we avoid DEHYDRATION???? This is not rocket science. It really is quite simple. Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is greater than the amount being taken in.

Did you know that 75% of your body is made up of water? So replace the water BEFORE YOU LOOSE IT. YES, BEFORE.

Sure it’s a nice sunny day and you’re having a great paddle, and you’re not thirsty, yet. Get in to the habit on your paddle to have water with you, lots of water. Stop every so often and take a sip. Not a gulp or chug. A sip; and sip through out the day. This will keep the fluids flowing.

For many years I worked my summers on the Jersey shore as an EMT on the beach rescue unit in Belmar. I saw many many cases of heat stroke and heat-related problems. I have seen people darn near die from the heat. This is some serious stuff. So if it’s hot, try to be on the water before it gets too hot, and if you don’t make it try a sunset or moonlight paddle. STILL REMEMBER THE WATER.

Thanks for paddling with Mel, the Guide; and hope to see you on the water soon.


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