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The Informed Parent

Your Basic Fluid Needs

by Shanna R. Cox, M.D., F.A.A.P.
Published on May. 12, 2008
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Here in Long Beach we have had record high temperatures more than once in the last couple weeks, and summer hasn’t hit yet! It’s a good time to revisit the importance of adequate fluid hydration and your body’s need for water. Our bodies are mostly composed of water, as it accounts for the majority of blood and muscle volume. Most of our bodies contain between 10-12 gallons of water. The majority of this fluid is provided by the liquids we take in each day.

This large amount of water serves many functions for the body. Water helps to prevent dehydration and constipation as well as regulate body temperature and cushion joints and strengthen muscles. Most adults need eight to ten cups of fluid a day, with each cup representing eight ounces. However, exercise or a diet higher in fiber may require a larger intake. Increased loss from perspiration on a warm day also increases this basic daily need. A good rule of thumb is for  each thirty minutes of exercise another eight ounces of fluid is required, or alternatively three cups must be consumed to equal a pound of water weight lost.

Dehydration can cause dysfunction in many areas of the body. Usually dehydration is defined as an estimated percent of fluid lost. A twenty percent fluid loss can be life threatening. Signs of dehydration are variable. There are several things to look for in yourself or others, including:  

  • Excessive thirst
  • Fatigue
  • Muscle weakness
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Dry mouth, lips and skin
  • No urination or a small amount of dark yellow urine
  • Lightheadedness
  • Increased body temperature
  • Nausea
  • Constipation
  • Labored breathing

If any of the above symptoms occur, medical attention should be sought. Slow fluid rehydration is important and can be life saving. The easiest way to assure adequate hydration is that urination is maintained. On a daily basis, watching the urine color can be a good clue to the body’s hydration status. Typically, urine should be clear to a pale yellow; anything darker means more fluid hydration is needed.




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