Dehydration signs

I have never experienced thirst so crazy as when I was breastfeeding, especially around my moon cycle. I remember a trip to Hana when my first-born was 3 months old and I had just started my cycle again. I had gone on a hike – without water – and found myself in a dehydrated pickle. I would have given my right arm for a sip of cold filtered water. I was in trouble deep.

Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluid than you are taking in. “Water is your body’s principal chemical component and makes up about 60 percent of your body weight. Every system in your body depends on water. For example, water flushes toxins out of vital organs, carries nutrients to your cells and provides a moist environment for ear, nose and throat tissues. Even mild dehydration can drain your energy and make you tired.” Mayo Clinic.

Lack of water can lead to dehydration, a condition that occurs when you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out theses normal functions. We lose water every day in the form of water vapor in our exhaled breaths and as water in our sweat, urine, breastfeeding and other bodily fluids.

Thirst is not a good early sign of dehydration. By the time you or a child feels thirsty, you may already be dehydrated. Some common dehydration signs to look out for are:

• Dark yellow pee. If you are drinking enough fluids your pee should be clear. Lack of pee is also a sign. If your baby has had no wet diapers for three hours or if you or your child hasn’t peed in eight hours or more.

• Dry or sticky mouth

• Soft spot (fontanel) on top of your baby’s head looks sunken

• Lethargy or irritability

• Dry skin (especially lips and feet)

• Headache

• Constipation

• Dizziness or lightheadedness

The chances of dehydration rapidly go up on hot sunny days, during exercise or vigorous activities (we sweat more) and while you are breastfeeding and on your moon cycle. Dehydration can also occur during illnesses such as intense diarrhea, vomiting, and fevers, so it is very important to keep the fluids up here too. You can usually reverse mild to moderate dehydration by drinking more water, but severe dehydration needs immediate medical treatment.

The safest approach is prevention. Drink more water on hot days, so in Hawaii, pretty much drink lots of water all the time, especially if you are out and about in the sun. When you, or your child, are participating in sports or strenuous activities you should drink some extra fluid before the activity begins. Then at regular intervals (about every 20 minutes) during the course of the activity and after it ends. Ideally sports, hikes, practices etc… should be scheduled for the early morning or late afternoon to avoid the hottest part of the day.

Plain water is the best drink option. But fluids high in electrolytes (salts) are also a good choice like coconut water or ReCharge energy drink. Fruits and vegetables also have high water content.
For breastfeeding mothers, who not only need the recommended amount of water for adults (commonly thought to be at least eight 8 ounce glasses of fluid a day), additional fluids are also required to make up for what your body uses in milk production. Carrying a water bottle, that can easily be refilled, around is highly recommended. Investing in a BPA free bottle or glass/steel water container is best. Even better is a thermos that can keep the water cold. Another reason to keep your fluids up too is that the nutritional content of your milk might change while you are dehydrated. This isn’t cool for you or your baby if the dehydration lasts for more than one or two days. Once put back into balance your baby might want to nurse more frequently for one or two days after your dehydration resolves, to catch up on needed nutrition. So again another reason to drink more fluids!

Image Credit: Malia Akinaka

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