How does dehydration affect divers?
I am sure you have heard this many times before, but just in case you haven’t – the human body is made up of 70% water. Everyone knows that being dehydrated is bad for you, but how does this relate to scuba diving? Studies have shown that even a slight loss of water in the body, as little as 2%, can result in up to 10% loss in physical performance due to dehydration. The muscles do not work to their fill capacity. Think of it as a car running without oil – damage, sooner or later, is inevitable.
To put it simply, dehydration affects the body’s ability to off-gas and hence predisposing divers to decompression sickness and increased fatigue. Blood thickens as we get more dehydrated. Thicker blood moves through our veins at a slower pace, and this increases the difficulty of transporting the necessary nutrients and the exchange of gasses. This reduced capacity for gas exchange is what directly affects divers and increases the risk of decompression sickness. In addition to this, dehydration can also cause muscle cramping, fatigue, increased heart rate and blood pressure, and confusion. This, in turn, leads to exhaustion, reduced air consumption and poor decision making, putting not only the diver at risk, but also everyone around them.
Ways divers become dehydrated:
- Sweat: divers lift heavy stuff, climb over challenging terrain, spend time in the sun, and expand a great amount of energy to fit into tight wetsuits. They sweat. A lot.
- Breathing dry air.
- Urinating. From all the water they consumed.
- Illness. Sea sickness, tummy bugs and diarrhoea.
How do you combat dehydration?
To remain hydrated, divers need to ensure a slow, gradual intake of fluids for up to 2 days before a dive and this should include at least 2 litres of water a day. However, it is just as important to avoid over-drinking as this can dilute the concentration of electrolytes in the body and this leads to the body ‘switching off’ the thirst sensation to try and compensate and restore the balance. In addition to this, you need to:
- Drink plenty of non-diuretic fluids
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine
- Eat mineral-rich foods like bananas
- Avoid exertion
- Stay out of the sun
Stay hydrated. Stay safe. Drink your Aqua Vita Water.