Roving Blue’s Eric Clayton Interviews Expert Health Writer Jan Modric on Dehydration

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Fresshwater.Com interviews health writer Jan Modric who writes for Ehealthstar.com and Nutrientsreview.com.

 

Where are you from, what is your educational background, and what kind of work have done?  What projects are you presently working on?

I am a health writer from Ljubljana/Slovenia and I have finished a medical faculty at University of Ljubljana. Currently, I write for Ehealthstar.com and Nutrientsreview.com. In my writing, I rely on systematic reviews of studies, experience from doctors from various American hospitals and, when it comes to dehydration and water intoxication, also on the newspaper reports.

How long can you survive without water?  Eights days sounds like a lot, why do I hear that 72 hours without water is a death sentence?

According to various newspaper reports, people–from a newborn to a 97 years old woman–have survived up to eight days without any water and food. I’ve collected some of these stories in this article. Eight days really sounds a lot and not everyone can survive so long. Most people might survive for at least 72 hours without water, so this is often used as an estimation that does not want to promise too much. I believe that in ideal circumstances (sitting in a shadow at 50-70 °F or 10-21 °C), many people can survive at least for 4 or 5 days. On the other hand, while walking in a hot desert you can expect to survive only for about 1 day without water.

What are the symptoms of mild, moderate, and severe dehydration?

 

You are mildly dehydrated when you lose 1-2% of your body weight due to lack of water. Two typical symptoms are thirst and dry mouth, but they are both quite unreliable. You can be thirsty and not dehydrated or severely dehydrated and not thirsty at all. Dry mouth can be also caused by anxiety, breathing through the mouth or drinking alcohol. Some people, when thirsty, feel like they are hungry.

 

In moderate dehydration (3-6% loss of body weight) your lips become dry, you can be tired or have mild headache. You urinate only a little and the urine becomes dark yellow.

 

In severe dehydration (loss of more than 6% of body weigh) you can be very thirsty and exhausted and you can have a severe headache. Despite a warm ambient, you sweat very little; you also urinate very little or not at all and your urine becomes brown.

 

Is there a way to tell how dehydrated you are based on urine color? Is urine color a dependable indicator?

 

Urine color is very “telling” — in mild dehydration it is usually pale yellow and in severe dehydration it is brown. Various urine color charts can help you estimate the extent of dehydration but not to calculate the exact amount of water you need to drink. Note that foods high in beta-carotene (carrots, sweet potatoes), vitamin B2 supplements and artificial dyes (candies, morning cereals, alcoholic beverages) can also make your urine yellow.

Are there other ways to self test for dehydration?

The most exact self test for dehydration is checking your morning body weight. One morning (when you assume you are well hydrated because you have been drinking enough for several days), weigh yourself after emptying your bladder and bowel and before eating or drinking anything. This is then your “normal morning body weight.” If at any later day you think you may be dehydrated, check your morning weight again; if, for example, your body weight has dropped by four pounds, it probably means you miss about two liters of water. A sudden loss of weight (within hours to few days) is much more likely caused by water loss rather than fat loss.

 

The other much simpler but less reliable test is a skin turgor test. Pinch the skin between the thumb and index finger on the back of your hand. When you are well hydrated, the skin fold should flatten immediately, but the fold will persist for a second or two if you are mildly dehydrated or for several seconds or even minutes if you are severely dehydrated. The skin turgor test does not work well in old people with wrinkled skin and in obese people with tense skin.

Which are the optimal beverages for re-hydration and does it depend on the type of dehydration you have?

The optimal beverage for rehydration for children older than four years of age and adults is water. Mineral water that contains some sodium can be more tasty and thus easier to drink. A herbal tea can be also fine. If water is not available, coffee, real tea, soda, fruit juice, sport drinks, milk and even beer can also rehydrate you. Caffeine and alcohol stimulate urination slightly, but this should not be a problem, because you usually consume more water from caffeinated drinks or beer than you lose it with urine. By drinking sugary drinks you may consume more sugar (and thus calories than you intended.

 

Infants and children younger than four years who become dehydrated due to persistent diarrhea or vomiting should receive an oral rehydration solution, which contains sugar and electrolytes — various brands are available in supermarkets and drug stores. Giving plain water to a dehydrated infant can result in a life-threatening drop of blood sodium.

 

When you see a person that appears severely dehydrated, exhausted and not able to walk, call a doctor before you give him or her anything to drink. Such a person will likely need an intravenous infusion of saline.

 

A doctor in a hospital needs to be aware of three types of dehydration –isotonic, hypotonic and hypertonic (depending on the amount of water and electrolytes lost)–, which are treated differently, but a layman person does not need to worry about this in everyday situations.

 

The other much simpler but less reliable test is a skin turgor test. Pinch the skin between the thumb and index finger on the back of your hand. When you are well hydrated, the skin fold should flatten immediately, but the fold will persist for a second or two if you are mildly dehydrated or for several seconds or even minutes if you are severely dehydrated. The skin turgor test does not work well in old people with wrinkled skin and in obese people with tense skin.

 

What is the affect of drinking distilled water all the time? Does it dehydrate you?

 

As long as you eat regularly, which means you consume sodium and other minerals, you can drink distilled, demineralized or deionized water and you will not likely experiencing any side effect. Distilled water does not dehydrate you.

 

During fasting for several weeks, drinking only distilled water and consuming no sodium, could theoretically leach too much sodium from your body and result in a drop of blood sodium levels (hyponatremia). Again, this is not a realistic scenario when you eat regularly. The claim that distilled water is dangerous for your health is a hype. But then, why would you want to drink distilled water at all? It lacks minerals and, by itself, is not healthier than other types of water.

 

 

What is the difference between water intoxication and polydipsia?  Are both of these conditions life threatening?

 

Polydipsia means “excessive thirst,” so this describes only the feeling or behavior rather than a health condition.

 

In otherwise healthy individuals, excessive drinking can result in water intoxication (a drop of blood sodium levels or hyponatremia) only when they do not consume enough sodium from food. This typically occurs in women on “water diets,” in alcoholics who consume nothing but beer, in participants of water drinking contests and in marathon runners who drink too much during the race. Some young people with psychological problems may drink more than 10 liters of water per day.

 

The lowest amount of water for which I’ve read it caused water intoxication resulting in death was four liters of diet soda in two hours drunk by a woman who was on a low-calorie (and hence low-sodium) diet for.

 

Athletes who train in hot weather may need to drink more than two gallons of water per day, but as long as they consume food with enough sodium they are not at risk of water intoxication. According to Current U.S. Military Fluid Replacement Guidelines from 2003, an individual should not drink more than 1.4 liters of water per hour when drinking for several hours in a row.

 

Do you have any closing statements, tips, or warnings about dehydration that I have not covered with the questions above

 

You can become dehydrated, tired and constipated without being thirsty by just sitting at your desk and not drinking enough. Having a bottle of water at hand can remind you that you need to drink. You do not need to drink “a lot,” of water, but just as much as you lose it from your body. Sedentary adults living in moderate climates need about two liters of water per day (from beverages and foods combined). The more you sweat the more water you need to consume. To check if you are dehydrated you can weigh yourself or check your skin turgor on the back of your hand.

 

Plain bottled or tap water may be boring to drink. You may want to find some delicious mineral water that contains some sodium and you may enjoy drinking more. Try to avoid sugary drinks — they can be addictive, they cost money and can make you fat.

 

Water intoxication does not likely occur by accident; it usually results from consciously exaggerated water drinking.

 

 

Authors:

Jan Modric, a 49 years old male health writer from Ljubljana/Slovenia. He finished a medical faculty at University of Ljubljana, but does not work as a doctor. Currently he writes for Ehealthstar.com and Nutrientsreview.com. He searches through systematic reviews of studies and other evidence-based sources and writes for people who want to better understand the health problems they have and for those interested in the effects and side effects of nutrients.

Eric Clayton, Founder and Owner of Fresshwater.Com
Born in Chicago IL 1955

Raised on the gang infested streets of Harvey,IL ( a south suburb of Chicago).  Went  to college in Kansas and acquired both my Bachelors and Masters degrees in Political Science. Worked as a staff member at Wichita State University , attempted to sell life insurance, assistant retail managers, have spent 30 years plus as a telecommunications engineer, a certified tennis instructor, and a Roving Blue sales representative. Is a very avid un-ranked competitive chess player and a former youth assistant football coach.

Fresshwater.Com  was created to help people prepare for water crisis situations.  It presents information about DIY water gathering solutions to the most sophisticated water filtration and purification solutions. People can’t afford to go 72 hours without water and Fresshwater’s presence is assurance that the average citizens will be educated and prepared for the worst.