As a truck driver the last thing that you want to have to do is make a bunch of scheduled or unscheduled pit stops along the road. Many truckers intentionally curb or control how much they are drinking during the day limiting their intake of liquids often by less than half of what is recommended.
It is important to realize that dehydration can cause serious health issues over both the short and long term. It is also important to realize that not all liquids actually hydrate your body in the same ways and some can actually lead to an increased risk of dehydration.
Symptoms of Dehydration
In addition to health issues, which will be discussed later, people that are dehydrated also have various issues that can impact your ability to be a safe, effective driver. One of the key symptoms of dehydration is increasing drowsiness and fatigue, both issues that are problematic when you are driving professionally.
Other symptoms of dehydration include:
• Dry mouth
• Excessive thirst that may come and go
• Chronic types of acute or low grade headaches
• Stiffness and cramping of the muscles
• Confusion and disorientation
• Dizziness, feeling lightheaded
• Difficulty urinating or strong urine
• Chronic lower back pain (kidney area) as well as chronic urinary tract infections (UTI)
It is really important to keep in mind that while these are the common symptoms of dehydration, they are also the symptoms of a lot of other health issues as well. It is always a good idea to get these types of symptoms checked out by your doctor to make sure there isn’t another underlying health issue that could be detected early to ensure you have the widest possible range of treatment options.
The longer that these symptoms are present, or the more chronically dehydrated you are, the greater the load that you put on your kidneys and circulatory system. This can lead to an increased risk of specific types of kidney disease as well as poor immune response of your body.
Decreased water content of the body, particularly the cells of the organs and the blood, decreases their ability to work, repair and function. Low concentrations of water in the blood can led to a condition known as hypovolemic shock that can be life threatening. This can happen when the blood volume drops suddenly or over time and your blood pressure falls dramatically. When this happens the blood is not circulated through the body, oxygen supply to the cells is cut off, and the brain and central nervous system can stop functioning leading to coma and, if not treated immediately, death.
How Much Is Enough And What Counts?
For the average person drinking about 8 full glasses, which are at least 8 ounces in size, per day is typically enough if you are not exercising or in hot conditions. However, if you are sweating or if you feel thirsty you should drink more. For those that excise regularly or are in hot or dry conditions drink more water and more frequently. This would include driving in a hot truck or running with the window down if the air conditioner isn’t working.
If you are trying to stay hydrated or experience the symptoms discussed above when you are driving, don’t count beverages such as coffee, energy drinks, sodas or anything else with caffeine as part of your 8 glass total. The reason you don’t want to count them is because they contain stimulants and, in the case of soda and some energy drinks, a lot of sugars. Drinking these types of drinks may help with hydration, but you will then have to deal with the symptoms of over consumption of caffeine and sugar, which are often very similar to the symptoms of dehydration. Also, next time you are tempted to reach for a soda in the truck stop take a minute and read the label. You will be surprised at the chemicals and additives in your favorite drink that you may not even know what they are.
Water, either bottled or tap, is a great option to just sip as you are driving. If you aren’t a water fan try some of the new single serving sugarless sports drink mixes or water flavoring packets that are generally well liked by most people. You can also drink sugar free types of sports drinks that have extra electrolytes which can help prevent cramping and many of the physical symptoms of dehydration.
Food, especially high moisture foods like apples, watermelon, oranges and grapefruit as well as raw vegetables can all help to boost your water intake throughout the day. These wouldn’t count specifically towards that 8 glass goal but they are a great way to add extra water and also give you a healthy snack.
A good habit, and one that many athletes, sports doctors, coaches and trainers recommend is to drink a large glass of water just before going to bed and immediately when you get up. This simple habit ensures that you are always going to have at least a quarter of your water intake requirements covered and it helps to allow your body to function effectively.