Water is ever-present on our planet in both liquid and solid forms, and without it, life would not be possible. Since humans are composed mostly of water, this is one resource we just can’t do without, and we need it daily to live comfortably.
Even though there are trillions and trillions of gallons of water on our planet, only 3 percent of the water we find in liquid form is potable. Even more, the vast majority of drinkable water reserves on Earth are found in underground aquifers, which are inaccessible to most humans.
Drought and dehydration are two major problems in modern times
While it was long ago established that human beings can survive for up to three weeks without food, our body’s need for water makes it impossible for us to survive for more than three or four days without it.
The maximum days a human would be able to survive is believed to be five to seven days in ideal environmental conditions. Such conditions are hardly ever met, and if you add to the dehydration equation a moderate to an increased level of activity, an increase in temperature, type of diet (especially if it contains salt), and liquid reserves of one’s body, they could hardly survive for three days.
If your body loses 5% of its bodily fluids, you will start to feel a sensation of thirst, and if you continue to lose more fluids, you will start to become irascible, you will become weak and nauseous.
If you hit a 10% loss of bodily fluids, you will become dizzy, and you will suffer from headaches and a tingling sensation in the limbs. You will not want to walk forward, and you become more irritated with every step you take.
At a 15% loss of bodily fluids, things get even more complicated, and you will have a dim vision, you will feel pain when urinating, your tongue will be swollen, deafness may occur, and your skin will feel numb.
Once you start losing bodily fluids, your body needs to compensate in some manner for all the lost fluids. It does so by increasing your heart rate and constricting blood vessels. Such protective action will maintain blood pressure and assure a proper blood flow to your vital organs.
However, this state cannot be maintained for long without you starting to feel nausea, weakness, and eventually, delirium sets in. If you do not quickly replenish the lost bodily fluids, you will become more dehydrated, and your brain and organs will receive less blood. This will eventually lead to coma, organ failure, and death.
Learn to spot the signs of dehydration and how to deal with it
If you find yourself in the wilderness with no access to potable water and a limited water supply, you should know how to spot the signs and symptoms of dehydration. These are:
- Dark urine with a strong odor
- Darkened skin around the eyes and loss of skin elasticity
- Unusual fatigue and a sense of general weakness
- Deep line forming down the center of the tongue
However, beyond these symptoms, there are others that may coincide with heat-related illnesses. The patient may suffer from heat cramps (muscle cramps), heat exhaustion (headaches, dizziness, a state of confusion, and excessive sweating), but also heat stroke (lack of sweating, increased pulse, nausea, and eventually, unconsciousness).
When you find yourself in the great outdoors, you should keep in mind you have to fight dehydration every step of the way. The human body’s normal temperature is 98.6 F degrees, and once it heats up, it will regulate its temperature and get rid of the excess heat by sweating.
The more activity you perform or the more the air temperature increases, the more you will sweat, and this leads to loss of moisture. In fact, sweating depletes your body of water, and it can become a serious problem if you are dehydrated. However, if you stop sweating during intense activity in a hot environment, your body will quickly be affected by a heat-related disorder. So, as you can see, you need to keep a steady body temperature and replace the water your body loses.
Most people will drink water only when they get thirsty, but this is a wrong approach, regardless of whether you find yourself in the wilderness or an urban environment. You should be drinking small amounts of water at regular intervals even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Every hour, you should take a few sips of water to keep your body cool and decrease sweating. A few sips of water every hour will keep your body cooler and reduce the water loss. It’s also recommended to conserve your bodily fluids by reducing activity during the hottest part of the day.
If you find yourself in a situation when food intake becomes low, you should be drinking at least 6 liters of water per day. Moreover, if you are in an arid climate, you should know that the average person can lose up to 3 liters of water each hour. This means that you should drink at least 10 ounces of water every 30 minutes. One trick to get rid of the thirst sensation is to rinse your mouth with water for 20-30 seconds before swallowing it. A dry mouth will maintain a constant feeling of thirst.
Regardless of what food you’re eating, make sure you drink water with your food to help the digestion process. This process requires water, and if you have a limited quantity of water, it is recommended to avoid eating food. You will waste water that you will later on need for cooling your body.
As preppers, we know that we need 1 gallon of water on hand per day for each member in our party. The more water we store, the better we will handle whatever calamity the future may bring. However, there are quite a few differences between hydration and survival hydration topics, and the latter is hardly ever being discussed in our community.
This topic, although controversial for some, discusses how little water you actually need to survive. If that one gallon of daily water is the norm, how much water would you need to live reasonably if access to potable water becomes limited?
The water needs per person vary depending on multiple factors such as age, health, physical condition, diet, activity, and climate. For example, while ready.gov recommends only three-quarters of a gallon per person daily, WHO suggests that 1.9 gallons per person daily will meet the water requirements for most people.
Once again, these recommendations are not backed up by any scientific studies because every person is different, and their water needs can greatly vary. For example, sick people, children, and nursing mothers will require more water than the average Joe. A medical emergency and a hot-climate emergency also require more water, and so on.
The general recommendation, which most people agree with, is that you need to drink half of your body weight in ounces of water to compensate for the loss of bodily fluids. This means that if you weigh 180 pounds, you will need to drink 90 ounces (0.7 gallons) of water daily to maintain your health.
Even so, if you’re in a situation where there is a shortage of water, and your life may be at stake if you don’t manage to find a water source, then it’s more important to know how to use the limited available water. This means you have to figure out the minimum water requirements for your body to keep the organs properly functioning. Essentially, you will have to replace what you lose.
For example, sweating, breathing, and urinating/defecating are the three main ways through which your body loses water. Certain studies have shown that the average person loses a minimum of 0.3 gallons of water daily as follows: urination (0.15 gallons), sweating (0.10 gallons), and breathing (0.05 gallons). And these estimations, which were established for a 160 pounds man in a mild climate, do not include factors such as unusual temperatures, increased activity, and exertion that will most certainly cause an increase in energy use and water loss.
In such a case, you will need to replace the water you lose, about 38 ounces of water daily, to cover those 0.3 gallons loss. For preppers and survivalists, this is an unrealistic situation since we would have to refrain from any physical activity, and that’s impossible during a survival scenario. Changing variables such as your body weight, climate, and level of exertion makes this minimal water quantity unrealistic, and drinking only those 38 ounces of water will eventually kill you.
As you can see, this concept of survival hydration can be applied to only a small percentage of people, and for those heaving to deal with a survival situation, this is a faulty premise. While you can understand how the baseline was established and that having a gallon of water per day is highly recommended, the takeaway here is that a person could survive on a lot less if they have to. Regardless of your situation, you will have to ration the scarce water supply to survive.
Drinking your water rations
If you find yourself in a predicament and you have limited access to resources, you will have to ration every little bit of water you have in a logical way. Let’s assume you have three daily rations of 16 ounces of water each. This means you will need to drink one standard bottle of water every eight hours. But how do you drink it?
You may be tempted to take small sips or perhaps drink the entire bottle at the begging of the day with a few mouthfuls. If you pick the last option, you’ve made the right choice, and here’s why.
Taking small sips of water from your eight-hour ration throughout the day will just trick your body into thinking it needs to conserve water. It was estimated that 16 ounces of water would be just enough to convince your body there is a water shortage, but it’s not too much to make it believe there’s no reason to conserve water. If you eat food that contains salt or if you just add a pinch of salt to your food, it will also help your body conserve water.
The way your body process, uses, and stores water needs a little help from your side. Sodium helps, and people suffering from dehydration are often given a rehydrating solution containing 1 teaspoon of salt and 6-8 teaspoons of sugar into a liter of water. Your kidneys will retain more water, trying to keep a normal level of sodium in your bloodstream.
So, as you can see, the trick is not to ration your water and drink adequate quantities at a regular interval but also not to avoid salt. While it’s true that too much salt will do you no good if you are dehydrated, a limited amount of salt will help in water retention.
Without water, you are doomed regardless of whether you find yourself in the wilderness or a more familiar place. You will need an ample supply of water to prevent dehydration from affecting your body. Depending on the body weight, overall health, environment, and exertion levels, your water needs may vary. Without water, you will notice changes in your body in just a few hours.
While survival hydration has a certain scientific basis, it becomes a faulty concept for those finding themselves in a survival scenario. When it comes to water loss, survival is possible only when you can maintain an equal level between the output and input of water. Make sure you always have enough water available.
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