Without water, you’re going to have a bad time trying to survive. Our bodies need water on a daily basis to function, and yet we are constantly burning the water we do have. You’ve probably already heard things like “drink 8 glasses of water a day” or that you can only survive for three days without a drink. In reality, your age, your fitness levels, what kinds of activities you’re doing, and the environment you’re in can change just how much time it takes until dehydration kicks in. If you’ve been incredibly active, it might start after just a few hours. If you’re lying low and conserving your energy, it’ll likely be much longer.
But the reality is this. If you’re facing a prolonged period without water, your body is going to eventually start shutting down. You’ll feel thirsty first, and perhaps start feeling lightheaded, with dizziness, dryness in your mouth, which progresses into fatigue, muscle cramps, and a lack of strength. You’ll also stop urinating so frequently, and it will be much thicker and darker in color. It’s likely you’ll get a headache too, as your body starts screaming for the fluids it needs to stay alive. Dehydration is your body starting to die.
Of course, the ideal solution is to drink more water (just remember to filter it first!). But if there really is no water source available, you can use these tips to slow the dehydration process that your body is going through, and hopefully make it out alive.
Stay out of direct sunlight
Sweating is one of the ways that your body regulates its internal temperature, as the sweat cools you down. The more time you spend in the sun, the hotter your body gets, and the more you sweat. So stay in the shade as much as possible, and do what you can to keep your body cool. Removing layers of clothing so you don’t sweat as much, and ensure that anything you do wear is light and breathable as well.
Make your moves at night
If you do need to travel when there’s little water around, my advice is to make your moves during the night. Or perhaps the early morning and late afternoon, when the sun and temperatures have dropped. This will cut down on the amount that you sweat, while letting you rest and recuperate during the heat of the middle of the day. You won’t be moving as fast in the dark, but you’ll be losing less water each time you need to travel.
Ration your water supply
Take stock of the water you do have, and make sure that you don’t drink it all at once. It can be tempting when you are thirsty to gulp it all down immediately, however you don’t know when you’ll be able to find more. Try taking smaller sips at more regular intervals, marking the outside of your bottle with your daily allowance so you’re not drinking it too fast. Just remember to drink it, it won’t do you any good if you are forcing dehydration on yourself.
Don’t eat big meals
Your body needs water to digest the food you’re eating, so go sparingly on the food if water supplies are tight. I’d recommend eating fruits and other foods that contain water as well, while limiting meats like jerky or anything heavily salted that will make you thirstier. Eating sugary and heavily processed food will speed up the dehydration process, as will big and heavy meals. Eat smaller meals at more regular intervals, and give your body a chance.
Find water-holding plants
There are plants that do hold a lot of water in the wild. Cut into anything that you find that look promising, so long as you know whether it’s poisonous or not. Heart of palm contains a lot of moisture, as does cactus, coconuts, most fruits and even vines. Just be cautious. I’d only recommend drinking from a plant that you know what it is, with the juices running clear. If it’s milky, I would highly recommend staying away from it at all costs.
Dig down to find water
Even if creek or stream has dried, look for patches of plant growth that’s slightly darker, or slightly greener than the others in the area. This is an indication that there’s water hiding below. Dig down, at least 3 or 4 feet, and then sit back and wait for the water to start to pool. If there’s any below, it will seep into the bottom of the hole, and you’ll be able to drink it (though you may want to filter out any additional mud or dirt with your shirt).
Get condensation from plants
Using a plastic bag, you can extract water from leafy plants using a technique that creates condensation. Simply cover a leafy branch with the bag, and seal it so that no oxygen can escape. With a little time, the trapped leaves will create condensation, that collects inside the plastic bag. This method will produce perhaps a capful of water at a time, which isn’t a lot, but in a crisis every sip can help you fend off dehydration.
Don’t drink alcohol
While it is a form of liquid, alcohol actually has a dehydrating effect as your body works even harder to eliminate the toxins you’re ingesting. Alcohol will also force your body to urinate more to pass it out of your system. If you’ve got a water shortage, the worst thing you can do is to consider drinking alcohol to make up for it. So don’t do this.
If water is in short supply, the good news is that you can follow these tips above to stave off dehydration for a little longer. Until help arrives, or you’ve been able to get yourself out of whatever predicament that you’re in. The key is to act fast, while doing everything in your power to ensure you’re not burning the precious little water you do have left, and make sure you don’t succumb to dehydration yourself.