Me: So are ya peeing enough???
Ms. C. (daughter): DAD!! Really?? (she and her husband are tagging along on a BWCA trip as life guards for our scouts?
ME: Clear and copious kiddo . . . .
Ms. C: Don’t worry about it dad – K??
I must admit I enjoy “tweaking” my daughter a bit. She is a tough critter and she’s doing us a real favor by bringing her hubby along and lifeguarding our patrol. We are on a week-long paddle through Minnesota’s Boundary Water Canoe Area – the BWCA. It borders Canada and offers our scouts a true taste of wilderness. You can easily paddle for days and see no one.
It’s mid-summer – the days are long, hot and draining. And everyone is shedding massive amounts of water quickly. They need to pay attention . . . . and so do you. Why?? Well, that’s the purpose of this post – to flesh out “all things water”.
We’re going to look at what’s living in the water – what can come along with each and every swallow. We’ll see how your body uses water and then how your body reacts once the demand for water far exceeds its availability.
It looks clean to me!!
One would think, looking out on a beautiful blue lake or a clear running stream that the water we need is simply a “cup’s dip” away. And while true, your thirst could be easily quenched – you need to remember that water is home to much more that simply a bass or trout. Much of what calls water home can’t be seen with the naked eye – and yet these bacteria, protozoa and viruses can cause anything from mild diarrhea to death. Let me list just a few and their possible effects on your body:
- Bacteria – Small little critters that can do anything from giving you a stomach to actually eating your flesh.
- Campylobacter – A major cause of bacterial diarrhea.
- Cholera – An intestinal infection causing watery diarrhea and vomiting. People typically die of dehydration.
- Cryptosporidium – Another intestinal bug that causes diarrhea and dehydration.
- Escherichia coli – Typically known as E. coli. It’s part of a healthy digestive system and helps keep more harmful bacteria in check. But there are strains that can release a powerful toxin that will damage the lining of the intestine and cause severe sickness.
- Giardia – It’s one of the most common causes of waterborne illnesses and will give you a bad case of diarrhea..
- Hepatitis –Hepatitus A, B, C, and D are primarily liver diseases. The effects can range from mild discomfort to a life long battle with the disease.
- Protozoan parasite – Protozoan parasites define a broad category of single celled critters that are looking for a host. Problems can range from damage to your central nervous system to diarrhea.
- Salmonella – Salmonella finds a home is water as well as eggs or poorly prepared food. It can present as a range of diseases from typhoid fever to salmonellis.
- Shigella – Just a small quantity of bacterium can cause dysentery, hemolytic uremic syndrome or shigellosis.
- Viruses – A wide range of viruses, 100 times smaller than bacteria, can deliver a broad range of symptoms from simple fevers to severe nerve damage. Viruses are immune to antibiotics and are so small they pass through the smallest of pores in classic water filters.
There are more . . . . but hopefully this list is enough to have you take water purity serious. There are a number of ways you can purify your drinking water to make it safe . . . but that process if for another post. I simply want you to understand that while water is a basic requirement for your existence – if you fail to properly purify your water, it can also end your life.
So how much water do I need in a day?
A majority of your body’s weight is water. For children, the average is about 75%. For the typical adult male it’s in the neighborhood of 60% and for an adult woman it’s closer to 50%. As we age our water content drops with the average more around 45%. Regardless of age, water plays a major role in our body’s chemistry and overall wellbeing.
The typical adult loses around 3 liters of water a day. This is primarily through urination, perspiration and your breathing cycle. This water must be replaced every day to maintain a proper level of hydration. And, remember – not all water comes from drinking – a lot is contained in the foods we eat as well.
Exertion increases our need for water since we are sweating more and water is being used faster within the body to carry off waste products from our muscles and other tissue as well as keeping us cool through perpiration. A typical person needs to drink about 500ml per hour during times of increased physical activity. Increase your intensity?? Then increase your water consumption as well.
Water within our bodies, water performs a number of different functions:
- It thins the bloodstream so our blood can move easily throughout the body.
- It helps to remove waste from cells, muscles and tissue throughout the body.
- It helps regulate your body temperature.
- It keeps your mucus membranes (lungs, mouth, tear ducts, saliva glands) moist.
- It cushions and lubricates your joints.
- It flushes your bladder, helping to reduce the probability of infection
- It aids in digestion and reduces the possibility of constipation.
- It moisturizes and softens your skin.
- It carries nutrients and oxygen to your cells.
- It acts as a shock absorber around your body’s most delicate areas like your spinal cord, eyes and brain.
Water is essential to your wellbeing. Withhold it for 3 days or more – things will not end well.
How can I tell I’m not taking in enough water”
You body can give you any number of warning signs that you are becoming dehydrated:
- You notice an increase in headaches.
- You simply have no energy.
- You mood changes and you are slow to respond to others.
- Your nasal passages are dry.
- You have dry or cracked lips.
- Your mouth is exceptionally dry.
- Your urine turns a dark yellow and your flow is reduced.
- You become weak and tired easily.
- You can become confused easily.
- You may hallucinate
Perhaps the best guard against dehydration is the observations of others. You may slide downhill so gradually that you simply don’t notice the changes in your body’s performance – your hiking or paddling partner may well notice first. Listen to them!
Why am I becoming dehydrated?
The primary culprits are over exertion and illness. If you are sweating a great deal, you need to be sure to counter that with an increase in how much you are drinking. It is a short distance from exhaustion to heat exhaustion to heat stroke. Pay attention, make sure you are urinating sufficiently and that it is clear, NOT a dark yellow.
Illness, particularly diarrhea and vomiting can take their toll quickly. While you may not feel like drinking – you simply must or you will spin out of control far quicker than you think is possible.
Water is a basic requirement of life. You must plan for it when you make your preparations – whether for a 3-day “get home” scenario or a long term “shelter in place” plan. You must have it available in abundance and it must be pure enough to drink without causing your harm. (we’ll talk about that in the near future).
It’s the second “Rule of 3” – “Three days without water” – and you’re in trouble.
You have all the time – NOW – to prepare, make sure you have all the pure water you need . . . .
. . . . your life depends on it.