While the news always tells us when a virus spreads on a cruise, it doesn’t mention that the most common illness during cruises is often dehydration. Often times when people start showing signs of dehydration, they tend to blame the food. Dehydration happens when the body is expelling more water than it is taking in. Our cells are mostly water. Water leaves cells taking with it waste and it is replaced with fresh water. Water leaves the body in a number of different means including water vapor in our breath, sweat, and urine. As we drink water during the day and eat certain foods, water is absorbed into our blood system. The body regulates our water content maintaining a proper balance of electrolytes and water for body functions.
Who Gets Dehydrated On A Cruise?
Making a generalization, people on cruises are at greater risk of dehydration. It’s not the cruise ships themselves creating the risk but the environmental changes and personal activities. If you consider for a minute, most people on a cruise are making a rapid change from a cooler temperature than what is found at the location of a cruise. Plus, most cruises are in a tropical area which have the most direct sunlight. You lie around the pool drinking a cocktail with a little umbrella in it while working on your tan and you smile thinking of your co-workers dealing with sub-zero temperatures. While you relax, your body is not. The increased heat causes your body to sweat more, rapidly losing its reserves. The body also takes time to acclimatize. In the natural progression of the seasons, as the temperature starts to rise your body adjusted the amount of salt in your urine and sweat. It is a gradual decrease as temperatures increase and an increase as temperatures decrease. When you jet to the tropics, your body is forced to rapidly adjust instead of making gradual changes. Let us not forget the air on an airplane is dry leading to dehydrating you and the cocktail, alcohol is a diuretic, causes water to leave your system at an increased rate.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration range from minor to severe. If dehydration reaches a severe level it is a medical emergency and death can occur. The first symptoms to show are normally thirst and urine that is amber or dark yellow. The inability to sweat is a sign that the problem is becoming more than minor. Vomiting and nausea are also signs that dehydration is getting worst, but many people pass it off as something they ate.
Prevention Of Dehydration
Dehydration is very easy to prevent and in mild cases easy to treat, mostly by drinking water. The amount of water your body needs is influenced by many factors and each person is different. One generally accepted recommendation is two quarts/liters of water a day with additional water during hard exercise. To prepare for the hot weather, increase your water intake another quart/liter. Start drinking the additional water a week before your cruise. During the cruise drink water frequently and spread it throughout the day. Try to avoid the direct sun in the hours from noon to 2 p.m. when the sun is at its strongest and most harmful. A good preventative measure as our body adjusts is to have a sport drink a day, such as Gatorade, for the first few days. This will help your body maintain its balance. Alcohol consumption is a major factor that can influence the rate of dehydration. If you consume alcohol, get in the habit of drinking a glass of water between drinks.
If you believe you have a mild case of dehydration follow the items above and if conditions get worst or do not improve in 24 hours, seek medical attention. The conditions that lead to dehydration can also lead to heat exhaustion.
Cruise Tip: Bottled water on the ships are often sold for up to $3 a quart/liter. The food service areas always have water available. Many of the ships do not let you fill water bottles for “sanitary” reasons at the food service areas. Bring a sports bottle with you on the cruise. The fitness centers always have water available (often with slices of fruit in it). The fitness centers do not want open cups and encourage you to use sports bottles.