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That's Eligible?! Getting ahead of summer heat and dehydration

Eligibility

Now that the calendar has flipped to June, chances are you're spending a lot more time outdoors. And that means you need to start thinking about cooling off, inside and out.

We've all been there. You're working in the garden or playing a game of pick-up basketball when you start to feel off. You're sluggish, dizzy and maybe even a little irritable (okay, a LOT irritable). Dehydration has snuck up on you again, and you never even saw it coming.

We associate dehydration with a feeling of thirst, but the two don't always go hand-in-hand. Thirst is your body's way of alerting you to low hydration levels, but you can easily get dehydrated before your body sends out the signal. By the time you feel thirsty, you're often already experiencing some of the early symptoms of dehydration.

Now, we're not doctors, but we are fans of sunny days. This summer, don't let dehydration get the best of you. Always check with a doctor before making changes to your diet and routines, but here are some tips we use to prevent dehydration, and how your tax-free funds can help.

Common causes of dehydration

As the weather gets warmer, the risk of dehydration increases. Dehydration can be a mild problem - sometimes a cold glass of water can take care of it - but it can also become an extremely serious condition that requires urgent medical care.

Common causes of dehydration include:

  • Working outdoors in the sun
  • Drinking too much alcohol (and not enough water)
  • Exercising outside or in hot environments
  • Sunbathing
  • Driving in a hot car without air conditioning

If you're already sick with a fever, vomiting or experiencing diarrhea, you may become dehydrated if you're not drinking enough to replenish your fluids.

How to avoid dehydration

You can avoid dehydration by drinking water, wearing weather-appropriate clothes and taking breaks. Sip water or a sugar-free sports drink at regular intervals and avoid being outside during the hottest parts of the day. Check the temperature ahead of time and try to do as much in the shade as possible.

Believe it or not, with a prescription, you can use your FSA to prevent dehydration with electrolyte replacement drinks. But don't try to sneak in some fruit punch without authorization -- you'll need a prescription from the doctor for those to be eligible with your FSA. If you often work outside and find yourself getting dehydrated, tell your doctor and they may be willing to write a prescription.

Some first-aid kits also have electrolyte solutions, which you can dissolve in water to create your own drinks on the go. These are useful to keep in the car or bring with you if you're hiking or going on a long road trip.

No matter how you pack your kit, the important thing is to have one, and have it handy, with everyone in your family educated on how to use it in case of an emergency.

How to get ahead of dehydration

The good thing is that despite the extreme circumstances that can result from dehydration, relieving it can often be a simple process. Try to drink some water or a sports drink with electrolytes if possible. Find a cool place to sit or lie down. Take a break from whatever you're doing or stop for the day if possible.

If you're dehydrated, you could also be overheating. Use the same cold packs you'd put on a swollen knee or hurt back to cool yourself down. Popsicles or ice are also good for both dehydration and overheating.

If you're still struggling, feeling weak, dizzy or confused, seek immediate medical help. Anyone with a fever over 103 degrees should be immediately taken to a hospital.

You can use your FSA to cover a visit to urgent care, the emergency room or your primary care doctor. If they prescribe something or run tests to determine the severity of your dehydration, those will also be covered.

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Don't waste time hunting for ways to spend your tax-free funds. In That's Eligible?!, we'll bring you these updates every Monday, so you don't have to. And for all things flex spending, be sure to check out the rest of our Learning Center, and follow us on Facebook, Instagram, YouTube and Twitter.

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