Dehydration

Originally published 05/23/2017

Peak construction season usually means working on hot summer days with soaring temperatures. There are several problems that can occur while working on a construction site in such conditions, however the most common is dehydration.

Dehydration occurs when your body does not have enough fluid. It can be caused by losing too much fluid, not drinking enough fluids, or both. In hot weather, your body expels a lot of water through perspiration as it tries to keep from overheating. The hotter the weather, the more you perspire and the more fluids you need to replace.

A widely held misconception is that everyone needs 64 ounces (eight cups) of fluid each day. While these quantities are appropriate for most people, they don’t take into account a person’s body size or activity level. Though no single formula fits everyone, some nutritionists contend that a more accurate way to determine your fluid requirement is to divide your body weight in half. This is how many ounces of fluid you need daily to meet your basic needs. So a 150-pound person would need to drink at least 75 ounces (just over nine cups) of fluid daily, while a 200-pound individual requires at least 100 ounces (about 12.5 cups).

Levels of dehydration can range from mild to severe based upon how much of the body’s fluid is lost and not replenished. Dehydration can escalate and become a life-threatening illness. Therefore, it is very important to recognize the signs and symptoms of dehydration. These signs and symptoms generally include:

  • Dry or sticky mouth
  • Low or no urine output (concentrated urine appears dark yellow)
  • Light-headedness or dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Increased heart rate and breathing

To treat dehydration, re-hydrate the body by drinking plenty of fluids. Stay away from caffeinated drinks. Also, recognize the fact that if you are dehydrated, you have lost sugar, salts and minerals, as well as water. Re-hydration solutions such as sports drinks can be very helpful in this instance.

As with all on-the-job illnesses, prevention is key. During hot and humid weather, don’t neglect your fluid consumption. Don’t wait until you feel thirsty to drink fluids. Once you start to feel thirsty, dehydration could have already begun. Light-weight, light-colored, breathable clothing can also make a difference. Every effort you make to stay cool on hot summer days will go a long way toward staying safe on a construction site.

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