Ways to beat dehydration

Hydration is key to staying healthy on the fireground, and water is the best way to stay hydrated

Summertime is quickly approaching; for some it is already here. We need to begin to think about the effects of the summer weather on personnel. There is absolutely nothing that compares or takes the place of hydration.

This is the time you need to remind personnel that hydration is not done when they arrive on the scene of an incident, rather hydration begins before even coming on duty.

Water is the best hydration source. However, the water we drink is not always pure.

Pure water
First and foremost make sure personnel understand that the bottled water you purchase does not always add up to a pure water that is healthy for you. In order to know the different sources of bottled water available, look at viable sources that identify the purest waters on the market.

Bottled water can be controversial because the water is in a plastic bottle. Plastic contains bisphenol A, which some research suggests can leach from the container into food and drinks and be harmful to your health. The other issue is the concern for the amount of plastic bottles ending up in the landfill.

So, what do you do? Water can be purified at the station. If your department is willing, a reverse osmosis filtering system is the best system to remove the impurities from the water. The water can be stored in non-plastic containers.

Be careful with any containers made out of aluminum. Aluminum is one of the highest levels of metals in the body and causes significant health issues. If your department cannot afford a reverse osmosis filtering system, then look at other options.

There are a number of filtering systems that can rid the water of the chemicals from the water system. When you look at the alternatives you can consider a filtering system that attached to the faucet or a pitcher that has a filtering system. Regardless you need to stay hydrated with a purified water.

Beyond water
Water is the foundation of hydration and should be the drink of choice. However, there are times when water is just not enough.

In these situations an electrolyte-replacement drink is appropriate. Drinks like Gatorade have a time and place. If your personnel are involved in an incident that they are in full action, this requires more than just water. Sports drinks do have a place at that time.

Replacing electrolytes is important. Without the proper electrolytes, personnel can not only become dehydrated, but also lose valuable electrolytes and have a significant reaction like heat exhaustion, or worse, heat stroke. 

Keeping personnel hydrated and cool will help to prevent them from suffering from a heat injury.

Never, ever, have personnel consume energy drinks or caffeinated drinks like coffee or tea. These drinks can cause more problems then benefits.

Also, soda needs to be avoided at all costs. Soda is one of the worse drinks personnel can consume. They are filled with sugar and chemicals that cause a number of issues. Do not offer sodas on the scene of an incident.

Summer is a great time for activities, but present heat-related challenges for those working on a fireground. To protect firefighters from heat-related illness, be sure they are properly hydrated. 

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