(Just) Water Is Not Enough

The summer festival season is just around the corner and the local sound company is starting to feel the uptick in gigs. You are out deploying sound systems for ACME Audio at a music festival. You have three rigs to jam into 3 different tents. The forecast is for sun, temp of 90º and high humidity. The lack of air movement in the tent makes it brutal to just breath. It smells like the inside of a tire. Its just you and a couple of sound crew. Are you ready to stay hydrated as you work a 12-hour day in the heat? Hopefully you have prepared with something more than just water….

Proper hydration is often overlooked by roadies. The motto “ We work until the job is done!” is a meme often said among the crew. Keeping your fluids in balance thru out the day can help you stay healthy and more productive. Balance is the key as proper hydration is more than just about drinking water.

It may be “shocking” to note but salts in your body known as electolytes are essential components that help conduct electrical activities in your body. These activities are essential for muscle coordination, nerve function, heart function, fluid absorbtion and excretion. Often people lose electrolytes, specifically sodium, thru perspiration, medication, illness and other causes which can cause an imbalance that can lead to serious health problems. On the flip side of the coin an imbalance can also occur when water is introduced into the system diluting the amount of sodium in the blood stream. Both of these two types of imbalances are known as hyponatremia. Also called water intoxication, hyponatremia is generally the result of drinking excessive amounts of plain water which causes a low concentration of sodium in the blood. This signals the release of a hormone, ADH, which leads to water retention and further dilution of electrolytes.

Signs and symptoms of hyponatremia may present with headaches, nausea, slurred speech, confusion or altered mental status, vomiting, lethargy, muscle aches and cramps, seizures, with the worst symptoms, cerebral edema, coma and death being associated with the lowest levels of sodium in the blood.

Once signs and symptoms have presented, especially altered mental status, it is strongly advised to seek out immediate medical attention. This is not a condition that you can fix with a glass of salt water. Replenishment of electrolytes need to occur intravenously and must be monitored by a physician. Roadies are not the only ones succeptable to this condition. Hyponatremia can be found at EDM festivals where use of MDMA or Esctasy can lead to the condition due to the drugs effect in increasing the hormone ADH.

Prevention is straight forward. First off, don’t do moly! Drink fluids that contain electrolytes. Drink adequate amounts of fluid to satisfy your thirst requirement. Ideally you want to put back into your body what you sweat out. No more and no less. Eat salty snacks. Although sports drinks like Gatorade contain sodium, the amount of Gatorade needed to replace sodium lost thru perspiration would be so great that you would need to drink a couple of liter bottles per hour to keep up with the electrolyte loss. It is better to eat salty snacks like peanuts, trail mix, pretzels and chips. Monitor your urine output. If you are urinating frequently but are cramping and have headaches you need more salt in your body. Your body knows what it wants and will tell you! Learn to listen and learn how take care of the machine. You will find that when you take care of yourself you will be better motivated and have a better attitude to get through the day.

Antonio Luna was trained and certified by the Chicago Fire Department as a Paramedic a life time ago before working as an A-List audio engineer.