We have covered many topics in the past such as fluid-based balance, electrolyte balance, and dehydration, along with several articles pertaining to first aid from heat-related emergencies. We’re going to refresh (as it is the season) the importance of hydration and several things you can do in an emergency situation. What constitutes an emergency? Anything that threatens either life or limb, or threatens to incapacitate you in a permanent manner is an emergency that needs to be dealt with.
Your body is about 75 to 80% water, which in itself is an oversimplification. The reason for this being there is intracellular fluid (fluid within the cells), intercellular fluid (the fluid between the cells), and other factors affecting fluid dynamics. This last term refers to the amount of fluid going in and out of the cells, and directly relating to both input (what you drink and take in with your meals) and output (in the form of urination and diaphoresis, also known as sweating). An additional form of output is termed extra-sensory perspiration, and this is what is exuded from your body in the form of vapor from the lungs breathed out, as well as fluid loss from the eyes (yes, both the tear ducts and the eyeballs themselves).
When you couple these losses with strenuous or stressful activity, it amounts to fluid loss that can impair your health. As mentioned in other articles, keep this rule in mind: thirst is a late sign of dehydration. In order to be hydrated properly during the course of a day, you should consume at least half a gallon to a gallon of water daily. This amount is in the normal daytime routine. Heavy physical work or exercise adds to this amount needed.
Let’s walk, now. In addition to taking in water, you can also replenish your electrolytes with ready-made drinks or powders. Gatorade and Powerade are beverages with a lot of sugar, yes, but they also contain electrolytes such as sodium or potassium that your body needs. In the service, we had packets called ORS (Oral Rehydration Solutions) that had measured amounts of sodium and potassium to take with the water in your canteen for those strenuous happy moments that called for it. You can save money and do the deed at your own convenience by buying up the powdered Gatorade and (as I’ve told you to save up the 32-ounce Gatorade and Powerade bottles) make up your own: not to guzzle every moment, but to maybe have one per day in order to maintain your electrolytes.
In a one-quart bottle, mix 1-2 Tbsp.’s of sugar and ½ to 1 tsp. of salt in water and drink.
This will do in a pinch if you’re really hurting: the sodium will help you retain some of the fluids and also restore what you’re perspiring. I did mention in one of my articles that for about $7 to $8, you can pick up a box of about 50 packets of powder that have complete supplies of electrolytes, minerals, and vitamin C to mix in a glass of water and down in an instant. These are worth their weight in gold in an emergency and when the SHTF.
A good, well-balanced meal will also help to maintain those electrolytes. Magnesium is found in spinach and many of your raw seeds such as sunflower seeds. Sodium you’ll take in with the normal course of much of your diet. Potassium can be found in bananas and prunes. Regarding the latter, take care and do not eat too many: the laxative effects can outweigh what you gain with the potassium. Calcium (necessary for good heart function) can be taken in with milk, cheese, and dairy products.
Lastly, what to do when you are unable to drink for some reason or another? This one will take a family member, spouse, or friend to aid you on. Reasons for this may include but are not limited to a shot away/broken jaw, partially crushed or injured throat, or a gunshot/impaled object to the abdomen. We mentioned IV’s in the first-aid articles last year. Have you acted on the information? In the aforementioned situations, you can hurt yourself further by drinking fluids (and potentially die if you have a perforated stomach or intestines with the last example), but you still need fluid.
The IV bypasses the digestive tract and sends the fluid right into the bloodstream. Another method that is close: you can administer 200-300 cc (equivalent to ml) by inserting that IV tube directly into the patient’s rectum (assuming no trauma there). It is a parenteral route: that is, a route other than ingestion. The “regular”/well-known routes of the IV are the veins: radial (the wrists), antecubital (the bend in the elbow), femoral (in the thigh), and [you better really know what you’re doing] the jugular (in the neck).
Supplies being paramount, you must obtain IV’s solutions, with Ringer’s Lactate (or Lactated Ringer’s solution) being the preferred 1000 ml bag. You’ll also need sterile tubing and a catheter, preferably large-bore. And what if you don’t happen to have it? Then you better improvise and improvise well. Here’s your tip:
Composition of Lactated Ringer’s Solution: (per 1 liter/1000 ml bag)
8.6 grams (g) of Sodium Chloride (NaCl)
0.3 g Potassium Chloride (KCl)
0.33 g Calcium Chloride (CaCl)
There you have it! In an emergency, “you” may be the only “pharmacist” in town. Your son or daughter’s life depends on it. Now how far are you willing to go? Time to get into that abandoned Home Depot and grab yourself some tubing and duct tape, then pick up either a turkey injector needle at Wal-Mart or a needle for inflating footballs and sharpen it up. Sterilize all of it. Get your ingredients together, sterilize a glass bottle by boiling, make up the solution, and hang the bag. Improvise, adapt, overcome.
Those who will take the steps and are ready to employ the knowledge and “take a chance,” as ABBA sang it…these will be the ones to make it. You must win with the weapons you have. Crawl by keeping aware and hydrating regularly during the day to prevent dehydration. Walk by obtaining ORS and other powdered supplements to help you maintain your electrolytes. Run by taking classes in IV therapy, stocking up on supplies, and improvising your own when the SHTF.