Feeling like a dried prune?
The Broncos are 3-0 (as of this writing – we’ll see what happens on Sunday!), another beautiful fall weekend is upon us, and on Thursday my son turns 13! Kyle, very happy birthday, you’re the best! If any readers see him out and about, please wish him a Happy Birthday, too!Meanwhile, time for a quiz!1) Name something that almost always can use more water and frequently doesn’t have enough.2) What has lots of water around but gives a lot away?3) Where can you find lots of salty water without going to the ocean?4) What ends up with 15 percent less water than it started with, but never knew where it went?Your answers are very close if they are:1) Your lawn.2) The state of Colorado.3) Tears.4) Your water bottle or camelback when you’re hiking (there never seems to be as much as you put in).However, the answer to each question is: US! We looked at dehydration before, but here’s a new twist on our body’s water.Dear Doc,What should we do for dry eyes and noses? Ever since we moved here, ourfamily gets bloody noses and red eyes. Is it from the altitude and what can we do?- Feeling like a dried prune!Dear Dried:The average person gets only half their requirement of water each day. Despite the fact drinking water is readily available – and just about free – we don’t indulge like we should. The result is we give more water away than we take in. Why? Because we lose water as a product of waste removal. To let our kidneys do their job, we need to produce at least 500cc (a bit more than one half quart) of urine per day. Water lost through breathing, sweating and evaporation amounts to an additional 850 cc (just about a quart) of water per day. Exercise, perspiration, illness and fever may result in the loss of several more liters. Moreover, the water in our body isn’t just plain water. Instead it is quite salty, as all of you know who answered question 3 correctly! Our water balance changes with age, too. Babies may be 70 percent water! As a person ages, the percentage drops to 50-60 percent water. Women, generally tend to be on the lower side.So, why do we get dry up here in Colorado and what can we do?Our intense sun and dry climate cause significantly greater “insensible” water loss from our body. Those difficult to measure amounts come from evaporation through our skin, respiratory tract and moist membranes like our eyes, mouth and nose. It is sort of like each day taking one more drop of water out of a glass than you put back in. Eventually the glass will run dry. Once we understand how much water our bodies need, it is easier to keep healthy.First and foremost, our fluid balance is a delicate thing. Too little water and problems quickly arise. Even 2 percent dehydration results in thirst and dry mucus membranes. Five percent dehydration and our health may be seriously impacted. Further fluid loss can be life threatening.On the other hand, it is hard to get too much of a good thing! When the average person with healthy kidneys drinks too much fluid, the result is just more frequent trips to the bathroom. If you drink two glasses of fluid and don’t need to go to the bathroom, you are probably a bit dehydrated to begin with. The most important thing to remember then is that if you are not well hydrated to begin with, all the moisturizers and saline sprays will not be enough to soothe those dry lips, skin and nasal membranes.So what can we do to stop “feeling like a dried prune”?When replacing fluids, drinks with caffeine or alcohol will not be of much help. They both acts as diuretics and cause us to lose more fluid than we keep. On a regular day, water is best. Water is easily absorbed and is used by our bodies to replenish our losses. Other fluids such as juices and milk can also help.If we have fluid loss from perspiration in hot weather or through exercise, sports drinks work better. Sport drinks contain a small amount of carbohydrates that increase water absorption through our intestines. They also contain electrolytes (think salt) that replace what we’ve lost through perspiration.Because our bodies are designed to sweat and lose fluid through our skin in order to cool down, it makes sense that hot showers and baths actually cause our skin to dry out. Keeping them cooler and shorter will help our skin from drying so much, as will patting dry rather than vigorously rubbing. Using a moisturizer helps hold water in. “Moisturizers” are a misnomer in the sense that they don’t actually replace the moisture in our skin. Rather, they lubricate our skin to help it feel smooth as well as provide a barrier to minimize evaporative loss.A humid environment minimizes evaporative losses, so turn up the humidifier if you have one. To specifically keep your nose and eyes moistened, you will need to use something similar to your own body fluids. That is, it needs to contain salt. It is best to use one of the many available over-the-counter products that mimic our own body composition. “Natural Tears” and moisturizing nasal sprays all do this. Just be sure to avoid nasal decongestants or “gets the red out” eye drops, which contain vasoconstrictors.If you want to make your own nasal solution, it is easy! First boil water to remove any bacteria. Next, add one tsp. salt to one cup of water. Pour this into a clean gentle spray bottle (old nasal spray bottles work great). Gently spray two to four times a day as needed. Remember to keep the spray refrigerated, as there are no preservatives in it. It will keep for about a week.Please keep your questions coming in! The only bad question is the unanswered one!Remember your health is your responsibility! Health is our greatest asset & it doesn’t happen by accident. If something doesn’t seem right, or questions are left unanswered don’t wait, call your doctor.Dr. Drew Werner of the Eagle Valley Medical Center writes a weekly column for the Daily. He encourages health questions. Write him by e-mail to firstname.lastname@example.org or c/o Editor, Vail Daily, P.O. Box 81, Vail, 81658.