How to avoid dehydration when travelling to the Top End
This year, the Australian September school holidays are scheduled a little later than usual. In some states they don’t start until the end of September and end mid-October. Many families are planning to visit Australia’s Top End during that time, and we are not going to lie: it will be hot!
According to the Australian Bureau of Meteorology’s long term data, daily temperature highs between mid-September and mid-October in the Darwin area hover around 33 degree Celsius. With a relative humidity around 70%, these temperatures can feel a lot higher. In Jabiru, the small township located inside of Kakadu National Park, humidity in September/ October is lower at around 60%, however, temperatures during the day can soar at 36-38 degrees Celsius! As you can see, the temperatures and weather in Kakadu can be quite different to those in Darwin, and even inside the park, conditions will vary depending on where you are. The weather in the Katherine area will be different again, but despite these variances you can expect it to be hot no matter where you go in the Top End.
So if you are planning to explore the Top End actively- hike, swim, perhaps even camp- it is of utmost importance to manage your hydration levels from the moment you get on the plane. Dehydration can easily ruin your holiday, but is easy to avoid if you know how. Here are some tips on how to stay hydrated:
- The best way to stay hydrated is to drink water regularly throughout the day. If you don’t drink even for an hour or two, it is hard to catch up. Drinking too much at once will flush important minerals from your system, therefore drinking small amounts of water every 15 minutes or so is the best way to keep your hydration levels up.
- Try to use a refillable bottle and track how much you are drinking, as it can be easy to forget. Dehydration can occur very quickly in the heat, so it is important to track if you are drinking enough.
- The absolute minimum amount you should drink in very hot weather with light activity is 4 litres per day per adult. If you sweat a lot or undertake strenuous activities, this can be a lot more. Research recommends drinking 1L per hour if you are active in hot conditions! Remember, you need to drink from the moment you get up to the moment you go to sleep, not only while you are active.
- If temperatures during the day reach 35 degrees Celsius or higher, it is recommended to plan any outdoor activities for the early morning or afternoon.
- Another good option, if you know that you will be active in the heat, is to add electrolytes to your water. This will replenish the minerals lost in your sweat and minimise the risk of dehydrating.
- Never go on any walk without sufficient water! Plan ahead, know how long you will be away from any water source and then take a little more than what you think you will need.
- Do not put your water bottle in your back pack. If you have to stop and search through your pack every time you need a drink, you most likely won’t do it often enough. Choose a bottle with a strap or handle and have it handy at all times, or use a drinking bladder.
- Remember, when you feel thirsty, you have not had enough to drink. It is important to drink before you feel thirsty.
- If you enjoy a few alcoholic beverages at night time, this does not mean you can stop drinking water. The contrary is true. If you drink alcohol, you need to pay extra attention to drinking enough water at the same time, as alcohol contributes to dehydration (a hangover is actually caused by dehydration).
Early symptoms of dehydration include feeling increased thirst, a dry mouth, a headache, feeling moody and tired. If you experience these symptoms, you should rest and drink fluids containing electrolytes and carbohydrates, such as hydrolyte (always have some in your first aid kit). Drink small sips over time and rest until you feel better.
Symptoms of more severe dehydration include dizziness, confusion/ light headedness, vomiting, low blood pressure and rapid heart rate, fever and poor skin elasticity (pinch the skin on the back of your hand, if it sinks back to its normal position slowly, you are dehydrated). If you experience these symptoms, seek a cool place to rest immediately and again try to drink electrolytes. You can also apply wet towels to your skin. If a dehydrated person cannot keep water and food down, you should seek medical help immediately! If in any doubt, always seek medical help.
A great way to identify dehydration early is by keeping an eye on the colour of your urine. If it is dark or bright yellow, you are not drinking enough. Your urine should be almost clear.
With all of these tips, you should be well prepared for your spring holiday in the tropics. Enjoy and drink up!