Water, water, everywhere!
“Water water everywhere, and all the boards did shrink, water water everywhere, nor any drop to drink” – The Ancient Mariner by Samuel Taylor Coleridge
This famous poem resonates with most people who read it – the poor unfortunate mariner is suffering for the lack of water and we can readily empathise with his plight. We feel his pain because the need to quench one’s thirst is one of the most basic needs in life. Here’s a closer look at how drinking fluids is vital to human life.
The rules of life
For a start, there’s the rule of three: three minutes without air, three hours without shelter (in the extreme cold), three days without water and three weeks without food means you’re likely to meet an unfortunate demise!
When we think about it, three days without water isn’t much at all. After one day, the body starts to break down, saliva drops and urine becomes less frequent. Mild dehydration follows, leading to sunken eyes and a rapid heartbeat. Extreme dehydration can lead to vomiting and diarrhea, subsequently followed by the body going into shock and then death.
In hot conditions with no water, dehydration can occur within an hour – a dog left in a car on a hot day can die within hours. We need water to survive, to regulate our temperature, to replace minerals and to bring oxygen and nutrients to our cells. Water cushions our joints and soft tissues, flushes out waste and acts as a shock absorber for our spine and brain. 73% of our brains and heart are composed of water, as well as 30% of our bones and 83% of our lungs. When we are born, 78% of our body is water, dropping to 65% after year one. In other words, water is vitally important to the human body!
Which groups are at risk?
According to the NHS there are four main groups who need to either be monitored or be aware of the effects of dehydration.
1) Babies and infants are very sensitive to small amounts of water loss. It is important that a dehydrated baby is not given water, as it can further dilute the low levels of minerals in their bodies. Diluted squash or fruit juice, administered by teaspoon or syringe will do the trick.
2) Older people may be unaware that they need to consume more water. Dehydration can be extremely debilitating for the elderly, with a loss of motor skills being a potential outcome. If you’re caring for an older person, a large glass of squash every morning and afternoon will certainly be of use.
3) People with a long-term health problems are at high risk of dehydration. For those with diabetes, valuable minerals can be lost extremely quickly, making dehydration dangerous. For those who have problems with alcoholism, neglecting to ingest the necessary fluids can also be problematic.
4) Athletes and other people training for prolonged periods may be at risk. Carrying a water bottle is absolutely necessary when performing strenuous physical activities for longer than normal. The large amount of water lost through sweat, with all its attendant minerals being flushed away, needs to be replaced. Drink plenty of water, but be aware of the dangers of water intoxication.
On a slightly lighter note, there’s always someone who is able to completely ignore the laws of the human body and get away with it! In 1979, Andreas Mihavecz survived for 18 days with no food or water, as verified by Guinness World Records. Interesting but not recommended!