Monday, July 25, 2011

What happens when your body is Dehydrated

There are many things that your body does as a natural resource to help prevent it from going into a dehydration shock, however, when you do go into a shock, it may not be pretty.

  • Heat exhaustion is one part of the spectrum of heat-related illnesses that include, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke.
  • The body cools itself by sweating and allowing that sweat to evaporate. This requires enough fluid in the body to make sweat, air circulating across the skin, and low air humidity to allow that sweat to evaporate.
  • Activity in a hot environment can overwhelm the body's ability to cool itself, causing heat-related symptoms.
  • Symptoms of heat exhaustion include profuse sweating, weakness, nausea, vomiting, headache, lightheadedness, and muscle cramps.
Sometimes, what may happen is a fainting spell.  Fainting, also called syncope (pronounced SIN-ko-pe), is a sudden, brief loss of consciousness and posture caused by decreased blood flow to the brain. Many different conditions can cause fainting. These include heart problems such as irregular heart beat, seizures, panic or anxiety attacks, low blood sugar (hypoglycemia), anemia (a deficiency in healthy oxygen carrying cells), and problems with how the nervous system (the body's system of nerves) regulates blood pressure. Some types of fainting seem to run in families. While fainting may indicate a particular medical condition, sometimes it may occur in an otherwise healthy individual. Fainting is a particular problem for the elderly, who may suffer serious injuries from falls when they faint. Most episodes are very brief. In most cases, the individual who has fainted regains complete consciousness within just a few minutes.

Fainting is a common problem, accounting for 3% of emergency room visits and 6% of hospital admissions. It can happen in otherwise healthy people. A person may feel faint and lightheaded (presyncope) or lose consciousness (syncope).

Last week, the temperature here in the Twin cities was very high, so was the humidity and dew point. (we actually hit our all-time high in dew point), so the air was very thick and heavy.  I remember during the day enjoying about an hour on my balcony getting some sun, however, I wasn't drinking enough water to absorb the amount of water I was sweating.  Let alone the night before I had a couple of alcoholic drinks. (surprisingly not my normal amount)  Either way, I had come in from a trip, exhausted, not drinking much water (which I don't normally do anyway) and now here I am basking in the sun trying to broaden my tan.

Later Wednesday night, I had gone to a friends house for dinner, again not drinking any water, and then we went out to watch a parade at a local bar. Instead of ordering water, I ordered a bottle of beer, and went outside where the temperature was still very high, as well as the dew point, and started to watch the parade. Hoping to watch some local high school bands perform, but was disappointed that the few who were in the parade didn't play past where we were.

I remember telling my friends how boring the parade was, and just leaning against a railing, and looking at my friends phone. Next thing I know, there are about 5 people standing over me asking if I was OK. Apparently I had fainted and hit my head pretty hard on the sidewalk.

I must say, the staff at the bar were extremely helpful and assisted every-way possible to ensure I was good until the paramedics arrived and took over. (darn-it, I should have taken pictures!!!) Initially, a few firemen showed up and gave me oxygen (the mask stunk) along with a couple of Minneapolis police officers asking me questions like, how much was I drinking, what happened, what day was it, who was the President.

Finally the ambulance arrived. I'm escorted into it and lay down on the gurney. I was pretty coherent, but my blood pressure was extremely low,

What is low blood pressure?

Blood pressure is the force exerted by circulating blood on the walls of blood vessels. It constitutes one of the critically important signs of life or vital signs which include heart beat, breathing, and temperature. Blood pressure is generated by the heart pumping blood into the arteries modified by the response of the arteries to the flow of blood.
An individual's blood pressure is expressed as systolic/diastolic blood pressure, for example, 120/80.The systolic blood pressure (the top number) represents the pressure in the arteries as the muscle of the heart contracts and pumps blood into them. The diastolic blood pressure (the bottom number) represents the pressure in the arteries as the muscle of the heart relaxes following its contraction. Blood pressure always is higher when the heart is pumping (squeezing) than when it is relaxing.

as well as my temperature, which I do remember sweating profusely while waiting for the ambulance.

They hooked up an IV and off to my hospital we go (no sirens darn-it!) Once there, go directly into a room, and wait for the on-call doctor. Once he arrived, he took the bandage off and again asked the same questions as before. Then he said he was going to get one of the nurses to come in and clean my wound before he stitched up my wound.

Before this time, I really didn't know the extent of the laceration until I had one of my great friends take a picture of it with my phone. (gotta get this documented or people wouldn't believe me! LOL)

So after another 30 minutes or so, a nurse comes in with a large cart and a big smile and says "I'm here to clean the wound" (no, she wasn't that happy, but it seemed like it) After punching some code into the cart like Nurse Jackie and getting a few supplies out of the cart, she was ready to scrub my wound clean to ensure there was no foreign debris inside my head before the doctor stitched me up. Luckily, the doctor said I only lacerated two layers of skin, so it wasn't deep....but if I didn't get stitched back up, I would have one ugly scar.

I'm not sure how a nurse starts off knowing how to clean a wound, or remove skin when they are new and deals with the first burn patient, or other types of wounds, but I must say, they aren't gentle after a few wounds later. (at least that's what it felt like, I thought she was going to go right through my skull a few times as she was cleaning. I know she was doing her job, but OUCH!)

Finally she was done, and the doctor comes back in to stitch me up. I was lucky in only needing to receive six stitches. I guess after being numb from the cleaning, I didn't feel him stick a needle in my head to give make the area numb for the sewing part, however I could feel and hear the stitches being tied and pulled. (it was almost kinda cool feeling)

I of course had to ask if this was going to mess up my hair, I was reassured that it wouldn't. Although as the nurse was cleaning, she did say she removed a small patch of hair....I just hope it grows back! LOL

The bad part of this whole thing is I can't fly with stitches. Since I'm in a 'recovery' mode, if I fly with a wound (stitches) and expand while in flight, I could re-open the wound and would cause more scaring. I really love flying and am saddened that I can't fly, especially that this is my first month as an International Purser based in Miami!

I should be getting my stitches out hopefully on Friday, and suppose to be back to work the following Monday. Not sure if it's because I'm a little more alert to my body now, but I have been drinking a LOT of water, and very little alcohol. I'm sure that it will be a while before I can enjoy the sun again like I have in the past without feeling a bit groggy and funny.

So if you don't take it from me, at least listen to a doctor about staying hydrated.

"Staying hydrated is fundamentally important to a successful summer exercise regimen, in fact, for any activity," says Survivor consultant Adrian Cohen, MD, of Neutral Bay, Australia. As the medical advisor for many reality shows, including Survivor and Eco Challenge, Cohen has seen firsthand the havoc that dehydration can wreak on performers and performance. "Whilst we tend to focus on hard, sweaty workouts and long jogging sessions, even a brisk walk or a scratch basketball game in the hotter weather puts demands on the human body, and without the 'fuel' (water) the engine runs dry," says Cohen, author of several books including Survivor First Aid.
Successful, balanced hydration starts with prepping yourself for exercising in the heat, says New York City- based sports medicine expert Lewis G. Maharam, MD. "Take 10 days to two weeks to get used to hot weather, building workout intensity and duration gradually," he says. Engage in higher-intensity activities during cooler morning hours and do easier work during the heat of the afternoon, he suggests.