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Balancing Your Fluids

By Rich Johnson

As I sit and write this week’s column, this past Fourth of July weekend was a real doozy, as we experienced record setting temperatures in triple digits with heat indices between 110 and 115 degrees. I usually reserve my fishing for the midnight shift in these circumstances, but then again in my line of work I pretty much get to pick and choose the time I want to fish. However, many of our readers are not so lucky and due to job and family commitments are only able to fish on the weekends. This means true diehard fishermen and women were fishing in the blazing sun under extreme conditions.

The importance of keeping yourself hydrated on the water can not be stressed enough. It’s the one thing that can save you from serious problems on the water. What’s funny is anglers will make sure fluid levels in their vehicles are full, but they ignore their own fluid level needs. The same problems that can arise in an automobile, namely overheating, can occur in an angler as well. When I’m on the water, I drink 6 to 8 ounces of fluids every half-hour if possible. Whether that’s water or a "sports" drink is up to you. I prefer water, but no matter what you choose, the body will absorb fluids better if at room temperature or slightly chilled between 45 and 55 degrees.

I always stay away form caffeinated drinks like soda, coffee and tea, which act as diuretics and actually increase dehydration. I don’t drink alcoholic beverages for the same reason. Save the "cold ones" for when you get home. Studies show that people in extreme heat situations don’t drink nearly enough fluids required to prevent dehydration. Most folks only drink enough to replace about two-thirds of what’s needed and that’s enough under extreme circumstances to cause problems.

Just as up to 80% of your body heat is lost in winter through your head, about 80% of water in the body is lost through perspiration. This is your body’s way of keeping you cool. If a machine is low on fluids it will struggle to keep up with it’s own demands under extreme heat and the body is no different. Without replacing valuable fluids and nutrients, the body will struggle and overheat. The cardiovascular system struggles and can’t deliver enough oxygen to the rest of the body and the result is fatigue first, then more serous problems ahead. If fluids are lacking, the body can’t adjust its cooling system and other symptoms like headaches, nausea and cramps set in. Fast heartbeat, low blood pressure, shock and even death can occur if the body machine is denied fluids over prolonged periods. Doesn’t sound like a pleasant time on the water does it?

You can combat all this and stay focused, alert and somewhat comfortable in the heat by doing a couple of simple things. First, drink 16 ounces of water a couple of hours before heading out into extreme heat and the sun. This gives the body plenty of time to regulate its fluid levels in preparation for time in the sun. It also helps to delay dehydration.

Secondly, while fishing or boating on the water drink before you are thirsty. This is very important because by the time your body tells you you’re thirsty, in extreme conditions you may be too late. Drink at regular intervals as stated earlier. I drink 8 ounces of water every 30 to 60 minutes, but everybody has a different tolerance level, so find out what yours is. About 8 ounces of fluid is needed to replace a pound of body weight lost to perspiration in the sun.

People seem to drink more if the beverage tastes good. Bring along lemon or lime slices to add to your water to freshen it up a bit, or take along sweeteners or flavored sports drinks if that’s what you like. There have been studies and surveys done saying unless you’re extremely active running marathons or playing many hours of high intensity sports, you get the replacement nutrients you need by drinking plain old water and sports drinks may be over doing it. It’s your choice, but water is a lot less expensive in the long run.

Remember to keep your fluids up and at their normal operating levels. The time you spend on the water, boat or beach will be safer and that much more enjoyable no matter how extreme the heat.

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