Sodium, calcium, potassium, chloride, phosphate, and magnesium are all electrolytes which occur in the body.  Electrolytes are minerals in your body that have an electric charge. They are contained in your blood, urine, tissues, and other body fluids. Electrolytes are important because they help:

 

  • Balance the amount of water in your body
  • Balance your body's acid/base (pH) level
  • Move nutrients into your cells
  • Move waste products out of your cells
  • Make sure that your nerves, muscles, the heart, and the brain work the way they should
  • Sodium is especially important for moving water into and out of cells

 

You get electrolytes from the foods you eat and the fluids you drink. In warm weather sweating increases and it is easy to lose fluid; additionally, salts are sweated out of the skin. Conversely some people are really good at drinking water when it is warm, but in hot weather they don’t feel like eating – so they are not replacing electrolytes at the same rate at which they are being lost.

 

The levels of electrolytes in your body can therefore become too low or too high.  Ever felt rubbish, fuzzy-headed and like it is hard to concentrate? This can happen when the amount of water in your body changes and your hydration balance is upset. The amount of water that you take in should equal the amount you lose. If something upsets this balance, you may have too little water (dehydration) or too much water (overhydration).

 

In addition to warm weather and over or under hydration, some medicines, vomiting, diarrhoea, sweating, and liver or kidney problems can all upset the water balance within the body.

 

If you’re feeling the symptoms of dehydration, a quick fix is a cool drink e.g. fruit juice (half water, half juice works well), dilute squash, or isotonic sports drinks and a snack e.g. a packet of crisps. This will replace the salts and sugars that are out of balance and help to restore the body’s natural levels. Avoid caffeine and alcohol as these will not help and also avoid just drinking plain water without a snack as this will not restore the electrolyte balance. You should be feeling better and more able to concentrate within 20-30 minutes.

Caution: if someone becomes very clinically dehydrated, this can lead to heat stroke, unresponsive collapse and if not treated to death. Follow the training learnt on your first aid course and seek urgent medical advice - call 999.

 

 

Top tip for those with children:

 

If your small person is reluctant to drink in warm weather, ice-lollies are a secret drink on a stick!

 

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