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Be aware of dehydration symptoms

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MOODY AIR FORCE BASE, Ga. -- A U.S. Air Force Airman consumes water to stay cool, June 3, 2016, at Moody Air Force Base, Ga. According to the 23d Aerospace Medical Squadron’s bioenvironmental engineering flight, base personnel can combat summer’s adverse heat conditions by drinking at least eight cups of water per day and increasing water intake during sun exposure, even when not thirsty. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Greg Nash/Released)

PETERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Colo. -- What is your tell-tale sign you are dehydrated? Answer the following questions to determine your hydration or dehydration state:

Do you have any of the following symptoms?

A. Dry mouth
B. Headache
C. Slight dizziness
D. Mental confusion
E. Muscle weakness/fatigue
F. Dry skin
G. Urine dark in color or infrequent

If you answered yes to any of the following, you could possibly be behind the hydration curve. What does this mean for you?

When we lose 2 percent total body weight in water, our bodies kick into gear and provide symptoms, mentioned above, to tell us, “Hey, I’m thirsty here! Give me some high-quality H2O!”

If we ignore these symptoms, our physical and cognitive performance decreases, therefore hindering operational effectiveness.

Tactical dehydration
When we know we will have limited access to the restroom, or will be inconvenienced by it, we purposely dehydrate. Have you found yourself in one of these scenarios? Because of this, individuals will tactically dehydrate to avoid an embarrassment or distraction of needing to “go real bad.”

Recall the symptoms above? Those symptoms will worsen, and you will experience physical and mental stressors. With a 1 - 3 percent dehydration level, it will significantly increase muscle and cognitive fatigue, directly affecting the warfighter.

Decrease in situational awareness, increase in spatial disorientation, and a decrease of G tolerance up to 50 percent causing G-induced loss of consciousness are more likely to occur when water intake is not up to par.

A way to avoid this unnecessary outcome is “don’t be afraid of the piddle pack,” and ensure you drink the right amount of water starting 72 hours before conducting your mission. Safety is compromised if you tactically dehydrate.

Preparation
It does not matter if the environment is hot, cold or just right. You must consume water throughout the time you are awake. The statement we grew up with as children, “drink eight 8-oz glasses of water per day” is a myth. How much water to drink depends on several factors: age, how much you weigh, how long you are going to expose yourself to harsh environment conditions, and physical activity.

Use a hydration calculator to adequately determine if you are drinking enough water. For a rough estimate, take your body weight and divide by two. The total you get is the minimum amount of fluid ounces you should consume per day.

Studies have shown an individual that has a water bottle within reach will more likely drink the correct amount of water compared to someone who does not properly prepare.

Consume foods with higher water content. Fruits and vegetables are comprised of mainly water, some over 90 percent. You hate the way water tastes? Try adding mint, berries, cucumbers, or lemon for flavoring before using water enhancers.

Remember your own personal physiological optimization checklist along with your operational checklist! Sleep, Eat, Water! Proper preparation is key to ensure you stay hydrated and maximize your operational effectiveness, so invest in that water bottle and drink up.

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