The Bayonet

Tuesday, Jul. 22, 2014

Contrary to popular belief, overhydration is possible

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"Because we live in the South with high humidity and temperatures, it combines for a perfect atmosphere for overhydration," said Jill Carlson, Maneuver Center of Excellence safety director.

Carlson said preventive measures are needed to protect Soldiers as they train at Fort Benning.

"Environmental factors play a big part (of heat safety and overhydration)," she said. Within the last 10 to 15 years, two fatalities involving Soldiers from the Midwest and Alaska occurred from overhydration, Carlson said.

"They weren't acclimated to this heat and humidity."

Overhydrating incidents, if they are going to happen, usually happen within the first three to four weeks of a Soldier's training cycle, she said.

Hypernatremia is a result from drinking too much water and not being able to replenish the electrolytes in the body.

"It takes all the sugar out of your body and since your organs don't have any nutrients, they start to fail," Carlson said. "When you are overhydrated or you have that feeling, you keep drinking and drinking, never being able to quench (that) thirst."

Being well balanced in several categories is the key to avoid overhydration, she said. "A lot has to do with the diet, hours of sleep and replacing electrolytes by drinking something that's a mixture of water and Gatorade," Carlson said.

"The caffeine in carbonated products is something to stay away from too."

She said the dining facility has adjusted to provide a better well-balanced diet, and Soldiers can visit a dietitian at Martin Army Community Hospital.

"Overhydration has the same symptoms as common heat injuries (such as) queasiness and pale skin," said Jorge Castro, safety specialist. "(The) root cause is not knowing the water consumption. If you don't monitor (that), then immediately you will go into treatment for heat exhaustion trying to bring the body core temperature down."

Castro said this is a situation where Soldiers are told to drink water, not knowing that it's causing damage and potential death by hypernatremia.

"We have standard operation procedures on the installation where (hydration) beads or tape (are used as markers) to keep track of the quarts of water (Soldiers) drink throughout the day," he said.

Innovative ways are used to help mitigate the heat, which include ice sheets, misting fans, portable showers, cooling tents and cooling blankets, said Carlson.

According to the MCoE Individual Safety Card Heat Illness Prevention Guide frequent drinking is encouraged, however, Soldiers are warned to not exceed 1.5 quarts per hour or 12 quarts per day.

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