I can’t tell you how many times at the range I would have a Marine pass out from dehydration when I was a Hospital Corpsman.

I have even seen it as a civilian, going to the range and some guy has been there in the heat all day trying to sight in his 300 Blackout AR and he is so dehydrated that he has a pounding headache and stopped sweating. (That’s borderline heat stroke, btw).

As a Paramedic and former Hospital Corpsman, I am a firm believer in hydration. The human body NEEDS water to survive. Performing tasks, even ones where you’re sitting, kneeling, standing in the sun; as one does while shooting target practice, requires that the body remain hydrated.

Believe it or not, it is a safety issue that is largely overlooked at many firearm ranges across the country.

Dehydration happens when your body doesn’t have as much water as it needs. Without enough, your body can’t function properly. You can have mild, moderate, or severe dehydration depending on how much fluid is missing from your body.

Mild to moderate dehydration may include the following:
  • Increased thirst.
  • Dry mouth.
  • Tired or sleepy.
  • Decreased urine output.
  • Urine is low volume and more yellowish than normal.
  • Headache.
  • Dry skin.
  • Dizziness.

Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:

  • Extreme thirst
  • Lack of sweating
  • Little or no urination — any urine that      is produced will be dark yellow or amber
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shriveled and dry skin that lacks      elasticity and doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched into a fold
  • Low blood pressure, Rapid heartbeat, Rapid breathing
  • In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness
  • Lethargy and irritability
  • Vomiting and diarrhea

The following tips may help you prevent dehydration.

  • Drink plenty of water before, while, and after you are active. This is very important when it’s hot out and when you do intense exercise. You can drink water or re-hydration drinks.
    • Drink plenty of water before, during, and after exercise/outdoor activity.
    • Take a container of water or sports drink with you when you exercise, and try to drink at least every 15 to 20 minutes.
    • Use a sports drink if you will be exercising for longer than 1 hour.
  • Avoid high-protein diets. If you are on a high-protein diet, make sure that you drink at least 8 to 12 glasses of water each day.
  • Avoid alcohol, including beer and wine. They increase dehydration and make it hard to make good decisions. Alcohol and Firearms DO NOT MIX!
  • Do not take salt tablets. Most people get plenty of salt in their diets. Use a sports drink if you are worried about replacing minerals lost through sweating.
  • Stop working outdoors or exercising if you feel dizzy, lightheaded, or very tired. Get into some shade and/or air conditioning and rest.
  • Wear one layer of lightweight, light-colored clothing when you are working or exercising outdoors. Change into dry clothing as soon as you can if your clothes get soaked with sweat.

Remember shooters, Safety First! and as my old Gunnery Sergeant used to say, “DRINK WATER!”

(Photos Courtesy of: Fort Pitt Tactical via Irregular Mischief Publications, LLC)