Hydration can be a major problem to your health even when you are completely surrounded by water. In fact, all the delights of a dive vacation — a hot sun, rum punches, long hours spent on the water — can leave you as dry as desert sand. How can you avoid becoming dehydrated, which could put an early end to an amazing diving adventure, and learn to recognise the symptoms?
A few common symptoms like headache, fatigue, or feeling dizzy can be overlooked or attributed to other causes. But when these symptoms accompany others, such as a dry mouth or being excessively thirsty, dehydration is likely the cause. Some of the most common effects from mild dehydration is cramping because not enough water is taken to your muscles and overall exhaustion and weakness. While that may not sound very severe, the more dehydrated you are, the more difficult it is for you to remain focused and self aware of your surroundings. You are also at a higher risk of having decompression sickness. On a dive vacation, some of the factors leading to dehydration are:
1) Sweating. Perspiring is the body’s internal a/c, a cooling mechanism that releases a significant amount of water. It’s common to sweat in hot, exotic locations — and that’s without the extra stresses and workload a diver has. Divers sweat while loading and offloading gear from a boat, finning against a current, and wearing a wetsuit for a prolonged period of time.
2) Sunburn. Soaking up the sun’s rays can be dangerous. Relaxing on the beach can lead to sunburn and as your body struggles to repair the damage, water seeps into the damaged skin and the body loses fluids.
3) Immersion diuresis. This is the correct term for peeing in your wetsuit. Immersion in water, especially in water that is colder than the air, causes narrowing of the blood vessels in your arms and legs, sending more blood back to the core of your body. Your body registers this rush of blood into the central body as a fluid overload, so the kidneys crank up their urine production to siphon out the excess. The more you pee, the more water you lose.
4) Alcohol. Drinking alcoholic beverages like rum punches or beer often goes hand in hand with vacationing. However, alcohol is an antidiuretic, which causes you to have frequent urges to urinate.
5) Being cold. Even in warm tropical waters, it’s possible to feel cold, especially on a trip where you’re making multiple dives. Being cold makes you urinate more.
6) Salt water. When salt-water residue sits on your skin, it can pull water away from the skin tissue, where it quickly evaporates.
The solutions are simple:
1. Drink water before you need it, and drink often, including in-between dives.
2. Seek shade whenever you can, and use sunscreen and reapply every hour.
3. Wash off salt residue on your skin as soon as you can after a dive.
4. Avoid alcohol and drinks high in sodium like energy drinks; instead, snack on fruits that are high in water and vitamins that you need to replace after a dive.
5. Refrain from suiting up until you are ready to dive.
6. If you feel chilled, peel off your wetsuit and get into dry clothes.
Chadd Lin is a certified personal trainer with a B.S. in exercise science. He makes his home in Tennessee.