Summer is here! Finally! With the warm to hot days of summer I frequently see patients complaining of cramping, especially in the night. Most of the time the solution is to stay hydrated by drinking plain old water. Sometimes adding some electrolytes is indicated. Other than feeling thirsty, how else can you tell you need to hydrate?
The Pinch Test is easy and fast to perform and is a reasonably accurate method of checking your hydration level. To perform it gently “pinch” the skin on the back of your hand and hold it for 3 seconds. When you let go the skin should snap back quickly. If it slowly returns back into place or stays up and “tents” that’s a good indication you need to hydrate. Now let me qualify things just a bit more.
If you are old, like me, your skin has lost a good deal of its elasticity and won’t snap back like when I was much younger so for us old geezers a little tenting is fairly normal. But for younger folks, especially infants and children, the skin should snap right back when you release it. If it doesn’t get some fluids in them.
“OK, doc. How am I supposed to know if some slowness or tenting is normal for me or not?” Simple, grasshopper. Do the pinch test when you know you are well hydrated so you have a normal baseline.
Animals can also become dehydrated this time of year. You can perform a pinch test on them as well. Either pinch the skin on the top of the head or between the shoulder. Also, it makes sense to do it when they are well hydrated so you have a comparison.
I’ve looked for a short video on the pinch test for you to have a visual. There are tons of videos out there and I should make one myself but here is one I found that is pretty good: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0dO4RPYGzHg
I could go into more detail on what things you should and should not drink for hydration, how the body regulates fluids and things that are exacerbated by dehydration but then I get too deep in the weeds and it would be too much. After all, the further you go out on the ocean the deeper the water gets (pun intended!).
Murray Smith, DC