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What You Need to Know about Dehydration

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It’s critical to understand the importance of hydration and how to stay safe if your regular water supply is interrupted. Going without food isn’t fun, but going without water will get you in big trouble – fast. You can only go without water for about three to five days. As soon as cells are deprived of water they start to deteriorate and die, soon after which organs quickly shut down and the damage can be irreparable.

You need 64 ounces of water every day. If you’re working hard, it’s hot or you’re sweating, you’ll need much more.

Dehydration danger signs

How can you tell if you’re getting dehydrated? Danger signs include:

  • Swollen tongue
  • Weakness
  • Dizziness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Confusion
  • Sluggishness
  • Fainting
  • Inability to sweat
  • Decreased urine output or concentrated, deeply yellow urine

Signs that a dehydrated person needs immediate medical attention:

  • Fever higher than 103°F
  • Confusion
  • Sluggishness
  • Headache
  • Seizures
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Chest or abdominal pains
  • Fainting
  • No urine in the last 12 hours

Purifying water

If a safe water supply is interrupted, making your own clean water with a water purifier is the smartest bet, especially since water is very heavy and not very portable. We favor all the Katadyn purifiers because they are reliable and made for emergency use. Be sure you get a purifier and not a desalinater unless you plan to make drinking water from salt water.

If you don’t have access to a purifier, boiling water is an excellent way to purify it as all pathogens die at 185 degrees. Boil water hard for at least 1 minutes (2 minutes if you’re in the mountains) then transfer to clean containers and store for up to 24 hours.

Water purification tablets contain either chlorine or iodine and are also effective, but tend to leave a medicinal taste.

Collecting water safely

  • If you don’t have a purifier, your next best friend is your hot water heater (the old fashioned kind, not the tankless kind). Old-fashioned hot water heaters contain about 40 gallons of water, but before you drain it turn off the power or gas.
  • Canned food also contains potable water so don’t throw away any liquid in the cans.
  • Rainwater, clean snow and ice are safe to drink. A rain barrel is an inexpensive investment – be sure the top is screened to keep out insects.
  • Create a collection system with a clean tarp, plastic sheeting or plastic garbage bags. Cut a hole in the center and position the tarp so it makes a V into a clean collection container.
  • Water in toilets, waterbeds and pools is not safe to drink.
  • Water in rivers and lakes is usually not safe to drink without purification.
  • When in doubt, don’t drink it. If you get sick from drinking contaminated water vomiting and diarrhea will dehydrate you all that much faster.

Storing water

Clean, sterile glass or stainless steel pots are the best containers for storing water. Plastic can be used as long as it’s clean, but plastic degrades over time and can leave harmful trace chemicals in the water.

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