By Elizabeth, Lead Speech Therapist
KidsCare Home Health, Pediatric Therapy
Having been a supervisor and mentor for some time now, those that I work with know that I’ll frequently say “I definitely have to potty after this.” or “I’ll meet you there, I have to stop and potty.” However, when I check in with them, they will frequently tell me they’re fine. This generally leads to conversations about water intake and I so often hear back that they don’t eat or drink much, if at all, during the day. Many times, they report having kidney infections, UTI’s, hunger shakes, or feeling ‘starving’ when they get home for the day. While our job often makes us feel rushed, and we are always thinking about the next session and the commute between; it’s important to remember that we are of no use to our patients if we are not taking care of ourselves.
Our bodies are primarily comprised of water and we should be taking in more throughout the day to replace what we lose through excretion. When we do not take in enough water, we become dehydrated. You may notice throughout the day, especially in the summer, that you become increasingly tired and may have difficulty thinking clearly. Those of you with allergies may notice an increase in sinus pressure or have drier mucus. Dry mouth is also a sign of dehydration; for those of us that rely on talking to do our jobs, this could be a problem. Dehydration can also lead to long-term joint pain which can greatly affect PT’s and OT’s who spend most of their time performing active play. Drinking water helps lubricates the joints which can improve career longevity. Drinking water also helps your body flush out toxins from the kidneys which helps maintain equilibrium in the body. Not drinking enough water could lead to kidney infections or UTI’s because the body is not able to rid itself of toxins.
Need help remembering to drink water? Try a handy-dandy app. If you want something fun, try “Plant Nanny” which grows a plant as you log water intake. Another app called “Drink Water” is one that I prefer which sends me reminders to drink water every two hours from 7a-9p. These apps calculate intake based on activity level and weight. They’ll generally recommend that you drink half your body weight in ounces. Some strategies I use include drinking a certain amount before I begin my commute and packing my cooler with freezer packs and three 20-ounce water bottles. While making a potty break can be more difficult now as many of our options such as fast food restaurants and public libraries are closed; there are many gas stations that are accessible to us. I plan my breaks and water intake based on my knowledge of my route and the nearest gas station. Try using Google Maps to flag your preferred gas stations, that way you know when one is always nearby.
Not a fan of water? Try using flavors, like Mio or Crystal Light, and decreasing the amount you use over time. Also, think about infused water, some combinations are: cucumber, lemon, and lime, strawberry and pineapple, kiwi and orange, or lemon, mint, and cucumber. Sometimes when it is really hot, the flavored water can be more satisfying than plain water.
While water is the most important, don’t forget to feed your brain too. Like everyone else, I’m constantly on the go. I rely on foods that are easy to eat while driving. Cucumbers and hummus, baby carrots, grapes, an apple and nut butter, and lots of wraps and sandwiches. In the winter, I’ll make simple soups that I can drink. Terrible about waking up and getting out the door on time? Me too. Typically, on Sunday, I will take to-go containers and fill them up with snacks. I usually attempt to make a wrap or sandwich as well. Then in the morning I can throw everything in my cooler and go. I keep my cooler in the passenger floorboard, up front. It’s easy for me to grab what I need before I start driving.
For those of you doing telemedicine this all still applies. Even in a temperature regulated environment, our bodies still need water to flush toxins. Getting up to go to the bathroom between patients is a good way to stand and move, which is important for circulation. It is hard on our eyes to stare at a screen all day, use this as an opportunity to give your eyes a break!