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Keeping the body hydrated is especially important for people with CF because they lose more body fluid and salt than a person without CF. Body fluid is lost in sweat, urine, digestive processes, and breathing. It's important to stay hydrated year round. Be extra aware of preventing dehydration during the warmest months of the year, no matter what you're doing. Playing sports, exercising, traveling, or just sitting in the sun all contribute to the loss of body fluid. Learn more about dehydration in people with CF and how to prevent it.1-3

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What is dehydration?1

Dehydration is the excessive loss of body fluid and salt, which are needed for good health and proper body function. When you keep the body hydrated, it helps the heart more easily pump blood through the blood vessels to the muscles. This helps the muscles work well.

Dehydration may result from the following:

  • Vomiting, diarrhea, or fever
  • Hot weather
  • Grueling exercise or rough play
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not getting enough salt to replace what was lost

Why do people with CF become dehydrated?1

People with CF become dehydrated because they:

  • Lose more salt: People with CF lose more salt from their body than the average person. Physical activity, illness, or very hot weather are all factors that play a role in losing salt
  • Feel less thirsty: Normally, when people sweat, the salt levels climb in the blood. The high salt in the blood makes you thirsty. It takes people with CF longer to feel thirsty (or sometimes not at all) when too much salt and body fluid is lost
  • Voluntarily drink less: Research has shown that when given water, children with CF drank 50% less than children without CF

What are the signs and symptoms of dehydration?1

Signs and symptoms vary depending on how badly dehydrated you are. Here are some common signs:

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Lack of tears when crying
  • Irritability
  • Dark, strong-smelling urine
  • Vomiting
  • Dry mouth
  • Drowsiness
  • Skin that loses its elasticity
  • Sunken, dark eyes
  • Reduced level of consciousness
Dehydration can be dangerous. If these symptoms are present, contact your CF care team or go to the emergency room. Intravenous (IV) fluids and electrolytes (salts) may be needed.

It is important to always talk to your CF care team about your diet and overall health.

The information in this section is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your qualified healthcare provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

How can I prevent dehydration and increase salt intake?1

  • Get more salt by doing the following:
    • Add extra salt to drinks, ½ teaspoon of salt to a quart of water or ¼ teaspoon of salt to a quart of a sports drink
    • Add extra salt to foods
    • Snack on pickles, olives, nuts, cheese, chips, crackers, and pretzels
    • Eat salty snacks during physical activity and increase salt intake
  • Drink more fluid even when you're not thirsty:
    • Carry a water bottle with you and drink throughout the day
    • Drink tomato juice or sports drinks that are high in salt

Dehydration can be dangerous, and it's important that you actively prevent it. If you suspect dehydration or experience any of the symptoms listed above, be sure to call your CF care team or go to your local emergency room for professional help.

References: 1. Preventing dehydration in CF. Toronto Adult Cystic Fibrosis Centre website. http://www.torontoadultcf.com/sites/torontoadultcf.com/files/preventing_dehydration_in_CF.pdf. Accessed May 1, 2016. 2. Day-to-day exercise and cystic fibrosis (CF). Cystic Fibrosis Foundation website. https://www.cff.org/Living-with-CF/Treatments-and-Therapies/Fitness/Day-to-Day-Exercise-and-CF/. Accessed May 1, 2016. 3. Staying hydrated - staying healthy. American Heart Association website. http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/GettingHealthy/PhysicalActivity/FitnessBasics/Staying-Hydrated---Staying-Healthy_UCM_441180_Article.jsp. Accessed May 1, 2016.

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