Posts Tagged ‘dehydration’

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Water from Snow and Ice

Don’t be fooled by the cold, although you will not feel that you are sweating, dehydration will start to set in very quickly in cold and snow conditions so you must stay hydrated.

Snow and ice are obvious sources of water but always melt them before consuming. Avoid the urge to eat snow or ice as it will lower your body core temperature, hastening the onset of hypothermia and can cause dehydration. Eating ice may also cause blistering and sores in and around your mouth and lips.

It is more efficient to melt ice than snow as ice requires less energy, therefore less fuel, to melt. Melting snow may be your only option. If so, an easy way of melting without a fire is to fill your drink bottle with snow and tuck it up under your jumper/sweater, whilst on the move and our body temperature will slowly melt it.
If you are too thirsty to wait for a whole bottle full to melt, you should melt a small amount of snow first by rubbing it between your palms, over your mouth, and drinking the drips.

In some situations, you may need to melt down sea ice for water. If this is the case, old, blue, sea ice with smooth edges is what you need to look for as it will be low in salt content and therefore good to melt and drink.
In the absence of old sea ice you could distill sea water in order to remove the salt and make it good to drink.

Electrolytes (salt)

In addition to water the survivor will need to replenish their electrolytes.

At a high level, Electrolytes help the body to retain fluid, regulating the hydration of the body as well as blood pH, and are critical for nerve and muscle function.

For example, muscle contraction is dependent upon the presence of calcium (Ca2+), sodium (Na+), and potassium (K+). Without sufficient levels of these key electrolytes, muscle weakness or severe muscle contractions may occur.

Serious electrolyte disturbances, such as dehydration and over hydration, may lead to cardiac and neurological complications

In a survival situation especially where heat and physical exertion are factors, the onset of dehydration can be hastened by not replenishing electrolyte, or at least salt, levels.

A simple electrolyte drink can be made by mixing the right quantities of salt, baking soda and salt a substitute for potassium in water then sweetening it with sugar. Unfortunately, in most survival situations, it is unlikely that you will have access to these ingredients.
Hydrating
For the survivor in the wild, your best bet for temporary replenishment of electrolytes is probably going to be ingesting around 10g (1/3oz) of salt daily. Salt alone will usually suffice if lost in the wilderness for a short time but the drink mentioned above would be a better option in an urban survival situation.

Chances are, that in a Survival situation, you will not have salt on hand so you will need to know how to find it. In some places, salt will be easier to find than others; near the coast, for instance, salt will be in good supply as the ocean is full of it; however, inland, your search may be more difficult.

Never drink seawater directly as your kidneys will not handle it. Either dilute it with fresh water at a rate of 1:6 seawater/freshwater. Salt is also the byproduct of evaporating or distilling sea water as described in the basics > water section.

Salt can also be extracted from seawater by soaking a piece of fabric, such as a shirt, in seawater and hanging it to dry. Once dry, salt residue will remain in the fabric which can then be fashioned into a ball and sucked on to ingest some of the salt.

Sea water holds approx 15g (1/2 oz) of salt per 470ml (1pint) therefore to meet the average daily intake of 10g (1/3oz), approx 320ml (1 1/3 cups) of seawater could be mixed with your daily freshwater. Young unripened coconuts hold about a liter of water and contain more electrolytes than most sports drinks.

Finding a supply of salt whilst inland will often be more difficult. Some wild plants have a salt content (see wilderness survival > wild food plants for more detail). Salt can be extracted from plants by boiling the plant until the container is dry leaving you with salt crystals on the bottom. These salt crystals are often black in colour.

Animal blood is also rich in vitamins, minerals and salt and is a valuable survival food which should not be wasted.

Fluid Loss

Your body loses fluid at a rate of about two to three (2-3) liters (2.11-3.16qts) per day under normal conditions. This is through sweat, evaporation, digestion etc. In some conditions you can lose up to two (2) liters (2.11qts) per hour. Even resting in the shade you can still lose about one (1) liter (1.05qt) per day. If you are unfortunate enough to have vomiting and or diarrhea you will lose even more fluid. Lost fluids need to be replaced or you will soon become dehydrated and you will lose your ability to think and perform efficiently.

Minimizing Fluid Loss

Fluid loss is unavoidable but there are steps you can take to minimize the amount you lose.
The following steps may seem extreme but they will help you minimize fluid loss an ultimately increase your chances of survival:

 

Avoid

Exertion
Exerting yourself will cause you to sweat to stay cool, which uses up precious fluid.

Don’t smoke or drink alcohol
If you smoke or drink alcohol, your body will use fluid to flush out your kidneys etc as your body goes into a detoxification process.

Laying directly on hot ground or heated surfaces such as rocks
If feasible, dig or clear a shallow trench in a shady spot and lay in it. The earth underneath will be cooler than the hot surface; but you must consider that the shade will move with the sun.

Eating
If water is extremely scarce. If water is available but in smaller quantities eat only small amounts avoiding fat (digesting fat requires a lot of fluid to break it down). If you eat without keeping your fluids levels up, your body will take fluid from wherever it is available, for digestion. Unfortunately this will be from your vital organs and will cause further dehydration.

Talking
Fluid is lost through evaporation. Observing the steam which comes off your breath on a cold morning will give you some indication of the amount which can be lost through evaporation.

 

Things you can do

Breathe through the nose and keep your mouth closed as much as possible
This will help you to avoid loosing fluid through evaporation. Your mouth has a much larger, damp, surface area and therefore, you will lose much more fluid through your mouth than your nose.

Keep water in your mouth
When moving over a distance in the heat, take a sip of water and hold it in your mouth, without swallowing it, as you travel. This will slow the rate at which you lose fluid through breathing and it will help to stop your mouth and lips from drying out.

Travel at Night
In warmer regions, travel at night or early in the morning, where possible, and rest in a cool place during the heat of the day.

Keep cool
Stay in shade where possible. Where there is no shade readily available, then you should erect something which will provide shade.

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