Statistics show that 75% of Americans and 50% of people worldwide are "chronically dehydrated”. The milder symptoms of dehydration are often dismissed or mistaken for other conditions -symptoms like fatigue, weight gain, joint pain, constipation, dry skin and headaches. When your body loses more water than you’re taking in, it has to compensate for the imbalance in ways that can spiral dangerously out of control if left unchecked. There is no reliable guideline for how much water you need because each person’s need differs greatly depending on their general health, diet and environmental exposure.
*As with all of the advice I give, I am not a medical professional, I’m merely sharing the knowledge I’ve attained over the years and practice safely myself -Follow my advice at your own risk.
Tips on preventing dehydration-
-You can never go wrong by drinking clean water whenever you’re thirsty. If you’re thirsty you’re already dehydrated by 2%.
-Limit sweat producing activities.
-cover your skin in dry and windy conditions to minimize the rate of moisture evaporation.
-Breathe through your nose to better regulate your breathing, 5% of what you exhale is water vapor.
-Foods with high water content, such as fruits, berries and vegetables will help hydrate you. Lettuce for example can be as much as 95% water, an apple up to 85% -another good reason to eat your fruits and veggies.
-Avoid foods high in protein when water is in short supply because proteins require more water to digest than other foods.
-Alcohol and caffeine can cause the body to produce more urine than normal, so extra water consumption is needed to counterbalance the additional fluid loss.
-Avoid adding salts to your system if you’re unable to dilute them with plenty of water. Your body needs to maintain a delicate balance of electrolytes and water to maintain optimal efficiency -too far out of balance can even kill you -as in drinking seawater. As your body loses water, you lose vital electrolytes along with it, so seek to replenish those too with pedialyte, electrolyte sports drinks, or by taking electrolyte tablets with the appropriate amount of water.
-You can make your own effective rehydration solution at home.
*Simple ORT (Oral Rehydration Therapy) Solution Recipe
· 1 liter of clean water
· 1 teaspoon of salt
· 1 teaspoon of baking soda
· 5 teaspoons of sugar
· Add concentrated flavor drops or powdered flavoring if desired
Recognizing dehydration-Suffering from dehydration has been described as flu like symptoms, or a hangover. Some of the signs of mild to moderate dehydration include-
· Dry mouth and skin
· Decreased urine output, darker urine
· Dizziness, lightheadedness
· Stomach cramps
Signs of more severe dehydration include-
· Extreme thirst
· Lack of sweating
· Sunken eyes
· Rapid heartbeat
· Rapid breathing
· Delirium, confusion
· Muscle spasms
Treating Dehydration in a Survival Situation-
-Shelter from the elements, direct sunlight and heat.
-If over-heated, cool down by placing something cool on the sides of the neck and remove excess clothing. Rub alcohol prep pads on extremities -the evaporation helps expedite heat loss.
-Take small, frequent sips of water or ORT solution until symptoms improve. If vomiting occurs, rest for 15 minutes and continue sipping. If vomiting occurs again, wait 30 minutes and continue.
-Rest until symptoms pass.
*Without medical assistance there’s not much you can do other than what I've outlined, which is why it’s so important to try to avoid getting there in the first place.
Finding Wild Water-
-Water runs downhill so check in low lying areas, nooks and crannies in rocks and trees.
-Follow the wildlife. Game trails often lead to water and birds tend to hang out near even the smallest of resources.
-Follow the wildlife. Game trails often lead to water and birds tend to hang out near even the smallest of resources.
-Some types of vines can be drained of their water. Nick the vine and see if it shows a drop of fluid, avoid if it’s cloudy or milky. If it’s clear, drip a drop into your hand, if it doesn’t change color in your hand, cut at ground level and again above your head. Do not touch the vine to your lips, it could cause irritation. Do not swallow if the water is sour or bitter –safe vine water should taste woody or mildly sweet if anything. The pores at the top cut may close and stop the flow before it has completely drained. Cut a couple inches off the top when it stops to be sure it’s empty.
-Dry creek and river beds may hold water just under the surface so dig in low lying areas. If water doesn’t appear in the bottom of your hole at a depth of your elbow, move on and try digging in a new location. If water appears, allow it to pool and sit for a few minutes for the sediment to settle.
-Wet sand or mud can be strained of water by balling it up in a shirt and twisting the ends tightly. You can wedge one side of the twisted cloth in a crack in a rock or nook in a tree and wrap the other end around a short stick to give you added leverage for twisting.
-Distill water from green vegetation by digging a shallow hole in direct sunlight. Place a catch container in the center of the hole and fill around it with green plant material. Cover with clear plastic and anchor the outer edges with rocks. Place a small rock in the middle so the plastic sags downward, directly over your container. This little greenhouse will condensate on the underside of the plastic and drip pure water into your container. Urine can be distilled this way as well.
-You can also place a clear, or semi-clear, plastic bag over green leafy vegetation directly on the bush or tree in direct sunlight. Droop the bottom of the bag to allow moisture to accumulate in the bottom, or drip out of a small hole into a container.
-Collect dew before the sun rises by tying cloth around your ankles and legs and walking through grassy areas -wring into a container to be purified.
-Bamboo is an easily recognizable water source plant. Bend over a tall stalk of bamboo and secure it in place. Cut a few inches off the top and place a container under it and allow it to drain over-night.
*Water distilled from another source or drained from a safe plant is pure water -all other sources may contain parasites that can make you sick. Do not rely solely on distilled water as it is bereft of nutrients. The most common danger with drinking wild water is Giardiasis -an infection of the small intestine caused by microscopic protozoa (Giardia Lamblia). Stomach cramps, nausea and diarrhea are the most common symptoms, which may not show up for 2 to 10 days, but can last a few weeks. In most cases, like having a cold, your body will naturally fight and destroy Giardia on its own without treatment, but dehydration from diarrhea is a serious concern in a survival situation.
Some natural ingredients you can use to treat intestinal infections and parasitic worms-
· Whole Cloves -Suck and nibble until soft enough to swallow, good for upset stomach and toothache as well. 3-5 clove twigs per day for two weeks.
· Raw Wild Garlic –Single, hollow stem/ 2-3 foot tall/ has a small bulbous top/ grows nearly year around in the northern hemisphere/ easily identifiable smell. Eat a couple raw bulbs per day for two weeks. May upset a sensitive stomach, but will deter insects from biting you as well.
· Pumpkin Seeds -Munch on a handful every day for two weeks.
· Raw Carrots -As much as you like
*These remedies should be taken on an empty stomach if you’re infected, and any of these can be eaten regularly for prevention if intestinal infections and parasites are looming threats -I tend to nibble on cloves myself. A diet high in fiber will help make your system inhospitable to parasites as well. Avoid sugar, dairy and fat while infection is suspected -these only help the little buggers.
-You can make a very effective water filter by using clean charcoal from your fire pit, crush it up but not too fine so it won’t clog the drain hole, put a layer in the bottom of a container or plastic bag with a small drain hole in the bottom, then alternately layer any of the following available materials -small rocks/ sand/ cloth or cotton balls –in distinct layers. Amount and thickness of layers depends on the size of your container and remember to leave plenty of room to add water because it won’t pour right through -it will drip and take time. You may need to poke a thin stick up through the drain hole to get a flow going. Place a catch container underneath the drain hole and fill your new filter with water. The first batch may still be cloudy, discard or run it through again -it will gradually get clearer.
-You can also filter water by digging a hole 10 feet from the edge of a river or 50 feet from a standing body of water until your hole begins to fill with water. The sediment between the body of water and your hole will filter out particles of plant matter, bugs and so on. Doing this at least 50 yards up the beach from sea water will produce water dilute enough to safely drink.
-Any cloth, such as a shirt or sock, can be used to filter out bugs and other sediments -every bit of bits you can remove the better.
Filters can only remove sediments and help to improve the taste of water -filtered water will still need to be purified.
-You should always boil water if possible, even if it looks clean and clear. Contrary to popular belief, there is no need to waste excess fuel and water by boiling it for extended periods of time. Some say 5 minutes, some say 10, some even say 20 minutes, but unless you’re boiling water in a bath tub I doubt any would be left after 20 minutes. The reality is that water temperatures above 160° F (70° C) kills all pathogens within 30 minutes, and water heated above 185° F (85° C) within just a few minutes. So in the time it takes for the water to reach the boiling point of 212° F (100° C) and allow it to cool down, all pathogens will have long since been destroyed. The only consideration is higher altitudes, and again, some people recommend additional boiling time per thousand feet of higher elevation, but the CDC recommends boiling water for one minute anywhere on the planet, at any elevation, to be sufficient. Also, if the FDA can approve milk to be safe by pasteurizing at 145 °F (63 °C) for 30 minutes -bringing water to a rolling boil and letting it cool almost seems like overkill, but unless you carry a thermometer with you, bring water to a rolling boil and by the time it cools you should be fine.
-You can also fill and tightly seal a clear container, or clear plastic bag, with questionable water and allow it to sit in full sunlight for 6 hours to purify it.
-A plastic bottle can actually be used to boil water. Suspend the bottle over a small fire with a vine or some other cordage and don’t allow flames to touch an empty part of the bottle or it may melt, or fill a plastic bottle completely and set it amidst hot coals.
-Aluminum foil can be easily shaped to hold and boil water. Many object can be used as a make-shift pot, just use your imagination, but don’t use any galvanized metal containers (Shiny, silvery, looks smooth but flakey) or anything that has been used for chemicals, petroleum products and so on. Good options are things like a soup can, hard hat, milk jug, etc.
-Without a pot, you can gradually bring water to a boil with hot rocks by adding them from your campfire to a make-shift container. A shallow pit, lined with any material that will hold water will work for this method, such as a trash bag or rain coat. Keep adding and trading out hot rocks and your water will eventual reach the boiling point.
-Household liquid Chlorine Bleach kills everything, including viruses, and is perfectly safe to drink if properly diluted. Don’t use any bleach product with scents or other additives. Add 2 drops of regular chlorine bleach to a quart or liter of water, 4 drops if it’s cloudy or green. Mix well and allow to sit for 30 minutes. If it still has a slight bleachy smell it’s purified and ready to drink. If it doesn’t smell like bleach after 30 minutes then all the bleach was used up destroying the nasties and there are still nasties left. Repeat the dosage and wait 15 minutes and smell again. You want some bleach to be left over to be sure. For a gallon of clear water use 8 drops and 16 if it’s cloudy or green. Even if the resulting water is still cloudy, or neon green, it will be safe to drink.
-Iodine is not as effective or safe for long term use as chlorine bleach, but is more effective than nothing at all. Add 5 drops of 2% iodine (the typical standard for first-aid-kits) to a quart or liter of water, 10 if it’s cloudy or green. Mix and wait 30 minutes.
-You can find ready-to-use water purification tablets at camping and survival supply retailers. They’re inexpensive and easily stored in your pack, pocket, or glove box. Make sure you know what you’re getting as some are for emergency use only and not intended for long-term use, and some are, so fully read the labels.
-Colloidal Silver solutions are veritable first-aid-kits in a bottle and also used to purify water. It comes in a variety of strength and you’re unlikely to stumble across some in the wild so I won’t recommend a specific treatment method. Research it for yourself and follow the manufacturer’s instructions.-You can improve the taste of boiled or chemically purified water by pouring from one container to another, back and forth, adding as many bubbles as you can. A dash of salt helps too.
If you’re unable to implement any of the purifying techniques I’ve outlined and you have to drink questionable water without purifying it, don’t panic. If it’s going to make you sick, it may take a few days to do so and may take weeks to become serious -dehydration will not be so forgiving.
Stay calm, drink what you have to and stay alive.