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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



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Brain injury blog by survivor

Brain injury blog by survivor



Dehydration must be avoided by brain injury survivors

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We are in the height of summer here in the UK, even reaching temperatures of 33 Celsius or 91 Fahrenheit. Parts of the country (including London and the South East of England) were issued with the highest level of weather warning. We were told that you must not spend prolonged periods outside between the hours of 11 am – 3 pm. These are always the hottest part of the day. Now those of you who live in more tropical climes are probably laughing your heads off right now. As you have the temperatures regularly, you must think it’s preposterous that here in Britain we have to be told by the government not to sit out in the midday sun. Well, we do. The saying “Only mad dogs and Englishmen sit in the midday sun”, holds true for when we are home as well as when we are abroad on holiday. Because we feel we don’t we enough have great weather usually, we do go a bit mad when the sun comes out to play.

Dehydration is a serious risk

I think we have just about got our heads round the idea of sunblock to avoid skin cancer. But there is an even more basic risk that even the shade can’t save us from: Dehydration.

Did you know that by the time you feel thirsty that you are already dehydrated? Thirst is the alarm button the brain hits when hydration levels have already become too low. The brain itself is made up of about 72% water and there is some research which suggests that our brains may temporary shrink when dehydrated! Scary, right?

Dehydration makes the brain more vulnerable to brain injury

When we have the right levels of water in the brain it helps transport chemicals and elements to where they are needed. But this there is a notably negative effect on the brain ventricles and brain cavities when we are dehydrated. This in turn slows down the movement of cerebrospinal fluid, which is vital for the brain and spinal cord to function. This can mean that a person is more likely to suffer a concussion (a “mild” brain injury) which is especially bad news for those of us who have already suffered a brain injury.

But even if you don’t give yourself another brain injury , dehydration can still cause real cognitive issues. One study suggests that the effects can make it as dangerous to drive as if you were drunk. Thus  it is why dehydration must be avoided by brain injury survivors.

Conditions that can result in dehydration

Hot weather isn’t the only circumstance that we need to look out for dehydration. There are a number of medical conditions which can leave you dehydrated as a side issue to some of the other nasty effects that they give us. These include:

  • Vomiting and/or diarrhea
  • Serious skin burns
  • Conditions such as diabetes

Symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration:

  • Increased tiredness
  • Dry mouth
  • Increased thirst
  • More concentrated and darker coloured urine
  • Less urine output than usual
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Dry skin
  • Few tears

It’s crucial that when you experience these symptoms that you drink water to address it. Clearly a number of there symptoms we can suffer from already as a consequence of a brain injury, so getting into the habit of ensuring you drink regularly is important. 

Symptoms of severe dehydration:

  • Ability to walk and general mobility is clearly affected by lightheadedness
  • No urine, or if there is some it is a dark yellow or amber indicating that it’s very concentrated
  • Lower blood pressure which can cause dizziness or fainting when standing from a seated position
  • Fever
  • Decreased skin elasticity  – pitch the skin on the back of your hand, and the time that it takes for the skin to return to its normal position is markedly increased
  • Lethargy and confusion
  • Shock
  • Seizure
  • Coma

Don’t ignore the signs like I did!

I’m writing this because although I did as the government told me and I stayed out of the sun, I clearly became dehydrated. I was busy doing some work, and although I recognised I was thirsty, I kept thinking “I’ll just finish this bit…..” I don’t know how long that went on for, but then the headache started. This didn’t feel like the usual tension headache in the forehead, this was my entire scalp. And then I decided to clean the kitchen, instead of sort myself out. This might have been signs that my cognition had declined to the point where I couldn’t prioritise things properly. But as I bent down, the pain in my head intensified and was unbearable. Finally I took the warning seriously and went to lay down and mad an effort to replenish my fluids.

In addition it’s a good idea to make sure you have a good level of electrolytes by using the powder sachets that you dissolve in water, or drinks which already have electrolytes added. This will speed up your recovery and hopefully avoid an emergency situation. 

Do you often allow yourself to become dehydrated? Do you feel the effects of it any any worse since your brain injury?


6 replies on “Dehydration must be avoided by brain injury survivors”

It’s definitely important for everyone, but as survivors I think we are even more susceptible to it. I know I’m going to be more sensible now.

It’s very important and not just in the summer, in the winter too, because of the reasons you highlighted for brain health. I personally stopped drinking coffee and just drink water with the occasional hot chocolate. I say invest in a reusable water bottle and a jug with a filter that you can fill and put in the fridge.

Thanks David for your suggestions and you make a great point. Using a jug does mean that you can be sure about how much you have drunk so far each day.

I have a brain injury, and when I am dehydrated, I can’t ignore it. I’m exhausted I get confused. My balance goes off. I walked too many blocks yesterday emits the crowd of Christmas tourists at Rockefeller Center and by the time I got to Grand Central despite having drank from a large thermos I have for walking around I couldn’t avoid the dehydration. It was terrible. My cognitive skills were gone and I was miserable. I took several day trips this summer, and it was not unusual for me to have to or to want to just lie and go to sleep on the ground but when I had 24 ounces of water I was better it’s very dangerous I want to know what are those what those sachets are that you can dissolve in your water is it sugar and salt?

They are rehydration sachets that you can get from any pharmacy. Just type “rehydration sachets” into google and lots of brands will come up and then you can read more about them. I would say don’t use them all the time, but I think it’s useful to have them to hand when you are having a dehydration episode.

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