Recently for four days I experienced diarrhea, headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue, the sweats, and panting. Yes, I was panting! While sitting in the cockpit, my body was hunched over and I felt as if I was using all my energy to simply breathe.
“What’s wrong with me?” I kept saying to my husband
At first, I thought it was a combination of food poisoning and difficulty dealing with high temperatures. The symptoms started just as the hot weather in Greece arrived – we were experiencing temperatures over 100 F/38 C.
The diarrhea arrived with a headache and thereafter I lost more and more energy each day. When I woke in the morning and stretched my legs I had to quickly stop as they started to cramp up. My sleep was totally broken – the heat and my achy body had me up and down from dusk until dawn. I’d fall asleep in the cockpit, move to the saloon and end up in my bed.
I felt absolutely horrible – all day and night
Feeling desperate, my husband and I sailed to a marina so we could hook up to mains electricity so to run our air conditioner, get some provisions and allow myself to get better. I felt as if I couldn’t cool myself down.
With the air conditioner running I felt slightly better but after any effort my energy would dissipate instantly. My appetite reduced drastically but I kept drinking loads of water (as I always do).
With little energy, I decided to sleep off my issue
After napping I woke in a pool of sweat – I know it sounds disgusting (and it was). And it seemed that the more I drank the more I sweat.
I’m definitely not a sweaty type person…
I explained to hubby that it seemed like my body wasn’t absorbing water
As soon as I drank it I would sweat it out. Furthermore, my pee was dark yellow to brown no matter how much I kept drinking.
By day four, we left the marina and headed for a bay. The idea was to get out of the sweltering marina, find a cool airy spot to anchor and have the ability to cool down with a nice calm swim.
Once we arrived in a bay we met up with a couple friends from other boats. We met for cocktails and after mentioning my issues, Mike from sailboat ‘Zulu’ said, ‘it sounds like you’re dehydrated.’
The instant Mike mentioned dehydration a light bulb went off in my head
I thought, ‘could it be as simple as that?!’ And then, of course, not wanting to be wrong with my original self-diagnosis I thought, ‘no – I have food poisoning. I drink water all the time – I couldn’t be dehydrated’
It’s so crazy how we always want to be right despite our best interests
Mike took his dingy back to his boat and grabbed a couple hydration packets he had on board and delivered them to me. Not wanting to make a fuss I said I’d take them later. Garth, our host, from sailboat, ‘Why Knot,’ set down a glass of water and said, ‘no – take it now…’
I mixed the small packet of white stuff in with some water – it was a rehydration packet Mike purchased in England. I drank the contents and within seconds – and I mean seconds – I felt massively better. The headache instantly disappeared and my energy returned. My whole body went from being hunched over, lethargic and sweaty to sitting upright, energized and not-so-sweaty.
Never in my life have I experienced such an instant result
The following day I drank another rehydration packet – just to be sure – and I felt 100% back to normal. The drink tasted like currant flavored baking powder mixed in water. It wasn’t nice but it was drinkable…
For four days I suffered with dehydration and all I needed the whole time was a bit of salt and sugar!
Since my dehydration experience a couple weeks ago I’ve been telling my story and many people have responded with, ‘wow – I wonder if that’s my problem too!’ It seems like I’m not the only one that’s suffering this year.
Last year we sailed all around Italy, Greece and Turkey and rarely experience 100 F/38 C. This year we’ve had over two weeks of high temperatures and it’s not looking like we’ll have relief soon. That being noted, I thought an article might prove helpful to those like me who have never encountered dehydration.
Looking back it seems silly, but I thought I could carry on as usual regardless of the heat
Did you know that doing anything physical in the hot sun uses as much as 25 times more salt as the same person sitting in air conditioning? And that once you lose required salty body fluids they cannot simply be replaced with just water? That’s why I kept drinking water and I didn’t see an improvement – I also needed the salt and sugar!
What are the symptoms of dehydration?
For minor dehydration, the symptoms include:
Diarrhea, increased thirst, dry mouth, sleepiness, less frequent urination, dark yellow urine, headache, cramps, dry skin, and dizziness. Speaking of dizziness, I was dizzy too – there were a few times when I thought I was going to feint but I put it down to serious fatigue.
When things start getting worse, the symptoms include:
A very dry mouth and skin, very dark yellow or brown urine, loss of skin elasticity, lowered pulse rate, sunken eyes, seizure, generalized body weakness, and even coma. Yes – a coma! All because you don’t have a few VERY COMMON things in your body.
So…what can you do if you think you are dehydrated?
In the States, many people rush out and get Gatorade or an equivalent sports hydration drink. With minor symptoms these drinks might be able to solve the problem, but the World Health Organization (WHO) states that they’re not adequate for truly rehydrating a person due to the fact that they have too much sugar in them.
Instead of using Gatorade, you can find Oral Hydration Salts in most pharmacies and even buy them from Amazon.com. Failing that, you can make a hydration mixture yourself using clean water (if you’re in a place like Mexico don’t use the tap water!), salt and sugar.
Oral Hydration Salts Recipe
Add a half-teaspoon of table salt and 6 teaspoons of sugar into a clean container. Add 5 cups, or 1 litre, of water and stir vigorously until it’s dissolved. Then drink it up!
You can find this recipe on the WHO website here.
While researching information for this article I noted that there’s also a need for potassium. Other websites have various people commenting about adding a thing called, ‘Lite Salt,’ that is half sodium and half potassium. Perhaps if you can find that product it might be worth putting in your galley?
Apparently, too much potassium can be fatal – perhaps that’s why the WHO left it out?!
A seasoned sailor commented on one thread that drinking tomato juice is an excellent rehydration solution due to the inherent potassium in tomatoes in addition to the salt and sugar that’s added to the drink…so perhaps that might be an alternative to drinking salt/sugar water?
What’s important is to realize that you’re dehydrated in the first place
If you’re suffering from diarrhea, headaches, muscle cramps, fatigue and more it’s a possibility. So if you think you’re dehydrated, make the simple solution, drink it and decide for yourself if you feel better. Furthermore, I think it’s a good idea to visit a drugstore or pharmacy and purchase a box of rehydration sachets to have on hand. I know that from now on we’ll have our cupboards stocked with them!
If you have any suggestions on making hydration solutions, other than the recipe listed above, please leave a comment below. And here are some solutions you can find on Amazon.