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Any suggestions on how to avoid hyponatremia?

Hi folks,

First post. Love to hike, especially to streams where I can find trout that are less experienced (i.e., they ignore my poor casting ability in favor of that juicy fly on the water!)

A couple of years ago I experienced hyponatremia (severe and sudden drop in sodium level, which can be extremely dangerous if not treated) while hiking at altitude in Utah. Got to spend a night and a day in the Casper, WY hospital and want to avoid dealing with that ever again.

Does anyone have suggestions on how to prep for a hike in order to avoid this nastiness?

Thank You for any ideas...

Fro

For those interested: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyponatremia 

8 Replies

I’m prone to Heat Exhaustion/ hyponatremia. Gatorade/ Powerade and Fritos

after starting day with good breakfast 

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Layering your garments is the way, you have to be conscious of your body temp - absolutely no sweating and stay on the cool side rather than the comfortable warm.   side.  You have to be monitoring your body temp so that you dont build up moisture in your clothing.  When you take off a piece put on your pack so that it dries out and have dried out clothing available.  I use polar fleece rather than wool.  It dries out faster and provides the same warmth as wool.  i have worked out in -45 weather and do it all day.  I dont go into a warm place with my outdoor clothing on I take it off outdoors.  If I do that I would not be able to go out all day.  You should have at least 3 or 4 layers that you can remove and put on when needed.  Keeping in mind that the pieces you take off you have to dry out.  I was a field service mechanic and would work out side all day and go into a warm place until the end of the day.  I never used insulated coveralls- too expensive and hard to clean the grease and oils that I dealt with.

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The key while hiking is to drink fluid AND eat food.  I normally take 6 bottles of water with 2 of them supplemented with Ultima electrolyte hydration mix.  The food is just as important, I bring a sandwich, have trail mix or energy bars, and apples.  Good luck!

My wife was having this problem (which lead to the discovery that she was having kidney function issues).  We now swear by powered Pedialyte, which is available in most grocery stores in both child and adult versions

That's a pretty rare condition in the US. I'm going to assume that you eat a healthy diet instead of the typical US diet that contains over a thousand milligrams more than the highest that we should be eating.

We do use more when hiking though, especially when in warm and hot weather, and the sodium (mostly, but the other electrolytes are needed as well) is needed for the body to absorb the water.

Add some sodium and probably a little potassium to your hiking diet. Just don't go overboard. Some Gatorade drink mix or equivalent added to your water should be enough. Nunn sport tablets are good too, but have less sodium so maybe not enough if you're sweating profusely. It's also not the best tasting (the grape at least, I haven't tried other flavors yet), but the taste can be acquired and tolerated.

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1) Congratulations on keeping your sodium intake down!

2) Either drink something other than water, tea or coffee (which have basically the same nutritional value as water), or eat something, too. Unless you're going out of your way to avoid sodium in your diet, just about anything will do.

3) Check with your pharmacist to make sure none of the medications you take affect sodium levels. Many drugs used to control blood pressure, for instance, do.

4) Ask your doctor. Seriously. S/he should know more than random people on the Internet, even on a great forum like this one.

5) Pay attention to how you feel. Cramps, dizziness, unusual fatigue, or anything else that just feels "off" should be taken seriously, especially if you're doing something you don't do often or under unusual (for you) conditions like elevation or temperature.

 

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GatorAde.

I have attached to the shoulder strap of my hydration pack (a 2L Teton Oasis 1100) a Rothco lightweight MOLLE water bottle carrier that holds a 20oz SS water bottle filled with GatorAde (I like Fierce Grape).

That gives me 2L + 20oz of hydration capacity that includes sodium, sugars and electrolytes.

I actually have two of the Rothcos plus two of the 20oz SS water bottles , so if I ever felt the need, I could double up on the 20ozs of liquid.

Now, some people, instead of carrying two different hydration liquids in separate containers, like I do, simply create a mix for the hydration pack.  It's doable, but leads to extra maintenance for the hydration bladder because you need to be diligent about cleaning the sugars out of the bladder or you'll have sanitation issues.  So, I carry only water in the hydration bladder.  Also, I happen to dislike the taste of diluted GatorAde.

Here's another thing.  If hiking under desert conditions (where hyponatremia is a particular concern), I have experienced my hydration supply becoming warm from the ambient air temperature.  Warm water is not exactly refreshing, but tolerable.  OTOH, warm, dilute GatorAde is pretty disgusting to have to drink.

Here's one more thing.

High sodium foods may not be particularly healthy to eat under normal conditions, but under conditions requiring physical exertion outdoors, high sodium is not necessarily bad.   And most freeze-dried backpacking meals are very high in sodium.  So are many other campground "staples" such as Spam, etc.

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I recommend adding to your water something like Nuun for electrolytes.  Easy to add and helps...

Superusers do not speak on behalf of REI and may have received
one or more gifts or other benefits from the co-op.
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