Water at Work – Part II

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Water at Work – Part II

In Part I of Water in the Workplace, taken from a fact-sheet by the same name and compiled as part of a toolkit published by the Royal College of Nursing and the National Patient Safety Agency, we covered how much water we should ideally be drinking each day, what the adverse side-effects are of even mild dehydration (quantified by the American College of Sports Medicine as a 1% loss in body weight) and how driver dehydration is often exacerbated because of limited access to sufficient fluids and toilet facilities.

In Part II we look at the health and performance benefits of remaining properly hydrated and how easily driver dehydration can occur if one is not vigilant.

The benefits of good hydration are many-fold, in the Hydration Best Practice Toolkit, they are listed as follows:

Preventing and Relieving Headaches

Headaches, fatigue and light-headedness are all early signs of dehydration.

‘Headaches resulting from mild dehydration can often be relieved quickly (within 30 minutes) by drinking between 200ml and 1.5 litres of water. Drinking an extra litre of water per day has been shown to help reduce headache duration and intensity in individuals who are susceptible to headaches or migraines.’

Maintaining Optimal Concentration and Mental Performance

Many studies have shown how even mild dehydration can negatively affect mental performance, increase feelings of fatigue, and reduce alertness.

‘Once thirst is felt, mental performance can decrease by about 10 per cent. The functions affected include memory, attention, concentration and reaction time. As the degree of dehydration increases, mental performance deteriorates further, and this may compromise safety particularly for those operating machinery or driving. Drinking water can have an immediate “alerting” and “revitalising” effect.’ 

This is particularly pertinent in helping to combat the potentially dangerous side-effects of driver dehydration, where optimal concentration and mental performance is essential to ensure safe and incident-free driving.

Reducing the Risk of Cancer and Chronic Diseases

Drinking enough water every day can help to safeguard the body from certain chronic diseases.

‘Individuals who maintain good hydration levels have been shown to have a reduced risk of developing breast, colorectal and urinary tract cancer; coronary heart disease; thrombosis; stroke; gallstones; and kidney bladder stones.’

Preventing Urinary Tract Infections

Proper hydration helps maintain a healthy urinary tract and kidneys. Urine produced by the kidneys helps the body rid itself of water-soluble waste products – adults usually pass between 1.5-2 litres per day. While Urinary tract infections (UTIs) are normally confined to the lower urinary tract, infections may occasionally spread to the kidneys causing more severe damage.

‘When fluid intake and urination frequency are reduced the risk of getting a UTI can be doubled. Low urine output is also associated with recurrent UTI. These observations are of particular concern for individuals, such as call centre staff and drivers, whose access to drinking water or toilet facilities may be restricted during working hours.’

Drinking enough water (in most cases two litres per day) throughout the day is the best way to prevent UTIs. Also necessary is frequent and complete emptying of the bladder which helps prevent the establishment of bacteria in the bladder.

Another factor which can adversely affect driver hydration is the work environment itself. Long hours in a hot environment can cause increased sweating and respiration, which exacerbates dehydration. And while most vehicles on the road are equipped with air conditioning which may help to keep temperatures down, this too can lead to fluid loss. According to the European Hydration Institute ‘air conditioning drops the humidity, and therefore has a drying effect on the skin which is particularly sensitive to dehydration. Skin dehydration can be observed through parched lips, dry eyes, itchy eyes or irritable skin. [Also] increased amounts of water are lost through the lungs when the air is dry.’ Even in cold environments there’s a tendency to lose fluid, because of the rate of energy expended by the body to stay warm.

In short, the benefits of proper hydration not only negate the adverse effects of driver dehydration, which includes an increase in driver errors, it also helps to keep the individual healthy and performing at his best which is in everyone’s best interest.


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