Hydration and Sodium Levels: Important Tips

Meridian, Miss. Hyponatremia is a big word with a simple meaning. It's a rare condition that occurs when there's an abnormally low sodium level within the bloodstream.

This can be caused by an underlying medical condition, some medications or excessive water in-take when taking part in endurance activities such as sports.

Dr. Marc Fisher is an emergency room physician at Anderson Regional Medical Center in Meridian. He says there are some key signs that indicate when a person's sodium level is too low.

"Generally, you have increased thirst," says Dr. Fisher. "You may have some dizziness, and you may have confusion. It will then progress to other symptoms such as seizures."

Sodium is essential to sustaining life. It regulates the amount of water that's in and around cells. As in Jackson Prep Junior Walker Wilbanks' case, healthcare officials say an extreme lack of sodium in his body caused his water level to rise to a dangerous proportion. He became ill during last Friday's football game, and ultimately passed away on Monday.

When it comes to doing outdoor activities for an extended amount of time, Dr. Fisher says there's not necessarily an exact science in terms of how much water you need to drink. Although drinking water is good, he says if you're going to be outdoors for more than three hours, you definitely need to drink something like a sports drink to replenish the minerals that you've lost.

"Try to replace what you lose," says Fisher, "but the other big thing is to hydrate before the activity. You're much better off if you increase your hydration before the activity so that you have extra fluid to lose. Once you get behind the curb it's hard to properly replenish the fluid."

According to Dr. Fisher, drinking basic water is a good way to hydrate prior to taking part in endurance activities such as sports.

Finally, Dr. Fisher says there are two other important ways to detect whether you are properly hydrated when participating in endurance sports. He says if your urine gets dark when you exercise, and it has a strong odor, those are signs that you need to replenish your fluids.