Dehydration is a common condition that may affect hikers at low and high altitudes. Inadequate water intake is the leading cause of dehydration.
It is normal to lose water from our bodies. Perspiration (sweating) is one way. Another would be expiration (breathing). Metabolic functions (energy production processes) in the body also result in water loss. Finally, homeostatic processes (they maintain steady internal conditions) involve the loss of water from our bodies.
Amongst the conditions that expedite dehydration in the body are:
Vomiting and diarrhea (common in high altitude)
Being in the sun for too long (heatstroke)
Drinking too much alcohol or caffeine
An elevated body temperature (like 38°C)
Certain medications (like diuretics)
Common symptoms of dehydration are:
Dark yellow and strongly smelling urine
Urinating less than usual
Dry mouth, lips, and eyes
Dizziness and light-headedness
Rapid heart rate
How to maintain dehydration on the trail:
Hydrate frequently on the days before and after the hike.
Don’t wait to get thirsty so you can drink during the hike,
Make water easily accessible by using the appropriate hydration gear. A water bladder is best as you don’t have to stop to drink your water. Get a reusable water bottle if you don’t have a water bladder. A water purifier is essential for longer trips.
Hydration tablets, oral rehydration salts (ORS), or electrolyte sports beverages can improve fluid retention.
Limit intake of caffeinated and alcoholic drinks before the hike.
Eat snacks! They contain sodium and potassium, which help in water retention.
Keep assessing your body for the signs listed above. Then, communicate with the hiking guide if dehydration symptoms persist.
Drink treated water, especially if you are fetching it from a source along the trail.
Water plays a crucial role in the functioning of our bodies. This role amplifies when we engage in physical activities like hiking. It is therefore essential to keep hydration at a healthy level throughout a hike.
Written by Mwenda Kinoti
Lead Guide- Above the Clouds,