The Hydration Challenge

It is starting to heat up here in the Riverland, and summer is looking to be a hot one! I hear a resounding ‘yay!’ from some of you and a ‘Ugh!’ from others. Yep, summer is coming and love it or hate it, it is time to get ready.

A common problem during the warmer months (but can occur anytime) is dehydration. As the weather makes us sweat, we lose more fluids from our bodies in an effort to cool down. It is really important to stay hydrated, as dehydration can quickly escalate, particularly if you are enjoying the outdoors during sporting events or on the river for example.

Thirst is an early sign of dehydration. Listen to your body.

The thirst signal can be a bit behind the need, so it is important to keep up your fluids .

The progression of dehydration looks something like this:

Early signs of dehydration – Thirst, feeling weak, fatigued & appetite loss.

Medium level dehydration – Feeling lazy and impatient, mouth dryness and flushed skin, low urine output and physical performance suffers.

High level dehydration – Headache and difficulty concentrating, irritability, and tiredness. Higher than normal respiration. Poorly functioning temperature regulation.

Severe dehydration – Muscle spasms, exhaustion, poor balance, dizziness and delirium, leading to collapse.

Severe dehydration can be fatal. It is worth knowing the lead up symptoms especially if you are a sporting enthusiast, or even just a sports observer. Watch out for each other, even on the sidelines in can get hot. Music events, shows, fetes, parades and all things out doors in summer, including our beloved river boating, can expose us to a higher risk of dehydration if we aren’t self aware.

We are about 60% water, and we need to maintain our fluid balance to keep our body functioning optimally. Our water intake plays roles in, among other things, blood pressure, our acid – base balance (pH), regulating body temperature, nutrient and waste transportation, lubrication for joints, the eyes and spinal cord. It’s no wonder we feel so lousy without it. We are essentially fish out of water. Well, not quite but it is a large part of who we are.

WHat about electrolytes?

Electrolytes can be worth replacing in the event that you are recovering from illness such as a bout of gastro, or dehydration, have been sweating profusely due to training hard for sporting events or similar. Electrolytes are the body’s salts and are really important for maintaining water balance of the cells. Electrolyte salts are easiest to obtain with products such as Hydrolyte, Gastrolyte or similar (available in pharmacies).

Photo by Juliano Ferreira on

WHat is Hyponatraemia?

Too much water is a dangerous thing. It may seem crazy, and it is rare, but even though we need it for life, too much water can be life threatening also. Water intoxication is more likely to occur when an athlete takes in too much water, too quickly. Normal day to day water intakes would not cause any problems. Under such conditions intake should be regulated to not exceed safe limits. Hyponatraemia is the term used, as it refers to the flushing out of salts caused by the water excess, rather than the water itself.

The best way to tell if your water intake is optimal is by observing the colour of your urine, it should be a light straw colour. Not too dark, and not completely colourless.

So while you are out there, loving (or not) the Riverland heat that is well on it’s way. Keep your fluid intake up (water is best), and watch those around you, especially if alcohol is being served, this can make dehydration worse, and harder to spot. Stay safe, and make the most of the beautiful Murray River.


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