Dehydration is one of the greatest dangers to people in survival situations, especially in the summer in warmer climates. While working to overcome a new hardship, it’s easy for someone to overexert and become overheated. And in survival situations, people can easily be exposed to contaminated water or improperly prepared or spoiled food, which could cause diarrhea or vomiting.
Of course, the easiest way for a healthy person to avoid dehydration is to drink plenty of liquids before and during strenuous activities. But severe diarrhea can also cause dehydration, so you should be prepared to deal with this deadly condition.
The young and the elderly are especially susceptible to dehydration. The young are more susceptible because they don’t know how to properly hydrate themselves, and, when sick, often refuse food or drink. The elderly are susceptible because they don’t drink as much as younger people, have reduced kidney function, suffer incontinence or simply have difficulty going to relieve themselves because of pain or infirmity.
Look for these signs if you suspect a person is dehydrated:
- Dry mouth or sticky saliva.
- Dry skin.
- Skin flushing.
- Dark-colored urine.
- Fatigue or weakness.
- Head rushes.
A person showing these signs is in the early stages of dehydration and has lost about 2 percent of his total body fluids. This person should be kept in a cool area away from the sun, if possible. He should be given plenty of non-caffeinated fluids (preferably water or a sports drink). The fluids should be taken in small sips.
In more severe cases of dehydration a person may experience:
- Increased heart rate.
- Increased respiration.
- Decreased sweating.
- Decreased urination.
- Increased body temperature.
- Extreme fatigue.
- Muscle cramps.
- Tingling of the limbs.
A person experiencing dehydration this severe should receive IV fluids to quickly replenish the electrolytes that are lost, and every effort should be made to get the person still, quiet and cool. If an IV is not available, sports drinks or Pedialyte® should be given, again, taken in small sips. Sports drinks and Pedialyte® are better than water because they contain electrolytes. Electrolytes are important because their loss can interfere with the chemical reactions needed for healthy cell operation. If no sports drinks are available, slowly administer water and, once symptoms have subsided, give the patient a salty snack or light meal.