Chug water on hot days, but don't overdo it

People's Pharmacy

August 21, 2005|By Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon | Joe Graedon and Teresa Graedon,King Features Syndicate

I am in the construction industry and have to deal with all kinds of weather. I am also an emergency medical technician with 18 years of experience.

On July 19, I "died." Fortunately for me, I was with co-workers when I passed out with no vital signs. They immediately started CPR while waiting for the on-site medics to arrive. The medical team had a defibrillator, and I was resuscitated within a few minutes.

When I arrived at the hospital, my potassium level was critically low. The temperature in the facility that day was over 109 degrees. I was drinking water, but plain water can "wash" potassium out of the body. Anyone working in heat and humidity, or even just stuck in an apartment without air conditioning, should replenish minerals as well as water.

We're glad you survived this close call. People are often told to drink lots of water in hot weather to avoid dehydration. But it is possible to overdo this good advice.

When potassium levels drop too low, people can experience muscle weakness and cramping, trouble breathing and cardiac arrest.

Low-sodium levels have also been linked to life-threatening collapse, so maintaining mineral balance in hot weather is crucial. Sports drinks may help.

I have been taking Detrol for the past two years, yet my hourly trips to the bathroom (only during the night) have not eased. Is there anything else that might allow me at least three hours of continuous sleep at night?

Many conditions might cause frequent nighttime urination, and your physician needs to rule them out. You may want to ask your doctor whether DDAVP (desmopressin) would be helpful. This hormone is prescribed for children who have trouble with bed-wetting because it helps regulate nighttime production of urine.

In their column, Joe and Teresa Graedon answer letters from readers. Write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 888 Seventh Ave., New York, NY 10019, or e-mail them via their Web site: www.peoplespharmacy.org.

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