Staying Hydrated at the Jamboree – A precautionary tale

Hi everyone, Martin here again.  Sorry for not posting last week but I was away with work to sunny, sunny Newport, South Wales and then Lyndsey and I had a long weekend together, including a break to London.  Whilst our weekend getaway isn’t directly connected to the Jamboree, you will forgive me for using it to tell a precautionary tale.  “Martin’s Top Tips”, as we’ve said before, is an opportunity to learn from the mistakes Lyndsey, Matty and I have made, or the regrets we’ve had over the years that we’ve been doing Jamborees, Moots and other international events around the world.  This is one of those occasions where I’m going to implore you to learn from one of my mistakes.

For reference, throughout this precautionary tale, the weather in London over the weekend was, what the BBC optimistically calls “sunny intervals”.  The highest temperature whilst we were there was 14 degrees Celsius, the lowest 6oC.

This photo shows the average weather conditions over the weekend fairly well

First thing was we both did a lot of walking.  I’d done about two miles before breakfast on Saturday (and had done a “Jack the Ripper” walking tour around London’s East End the night before!)  I was at the South London Warlord’s “Salute 2019” show at the ExCel on the Saturday and spent a good few hours wandering around the stands and the games that were on.  I was on my feet from about 0730 till 1800 when we stopped for dinner, then again to get back to the hotel.  I’d easily walked 20 miles that day.  I didn’t think too much about it when I went to bed, the soles of my feet were a bit sore – which I put down to my trainers which I should have retired weeks ago, and my calf muscles were a bit achy.

When I woke up on Sunday my head was splitting.  I felt a bit dizzy and lightheaded, I was having acute muscle cramps, my mouth was dry and sticky.  For me, personally, a lot of these symptoms are instantly a warning sign for hypoglycemia (I’m a Type 1 Insulin Dependent Diabetic).  I did a blood test and it came up normal, well, high end of normal but I’ll take it.  So it wasn’t that.

I assumed I was just feeling a bit “funny” and getting some fresh air would sort me out.  So we packed up, dropped the bags in the hotel’s luggage store and went out exploring.  It wasn’t until we got off the Jubilee line at London Bridge that it twigged.

I was dehydrated.

Final Canteen in a desert – a sure sign of dehydration

I remember having a conversation with Lyndsey on the Saturday about not having peed between waking up at 0730 until I was leaving Salute at nearly 1300, and then I hadn’t gone again until nearly 1900 as we were finishing dinner.  My fluid intake wasn’t great either, on reflection.  I’d not had anything to drink until probably 1000 when I had a can of (diet) coke.  I’d had a 500ml bottle of diet coke as I was leaving the ExCel, one with lunch (a Gregg’s eaten on the move at Westminster Underground station), then nothing till dinner.

After realising I was dehydrated I ducked into a newsagent and bought a litre bottle of water.  I drank that and started to feel better.  Remembering Japan I went and got chips from McDonalds and loaded them with salt to try and help my electrolytes.  Within half an hour or so I was feeling better, but still wasn’t right.  I had to stop and get another drink and after we’d spent a couple of hours going round HMS Belfast I had to find a shop to buy more water.

In the end, I had to drink maybe about four litres of fluids and take paracetamol to start feeling better again.  I didn’t truly feel 100% until after I’d had a snooze in the car on the way back North (for reference, Lyndsey was driving!)  Whilst I was capable of going round and functioning, I had a grim headache and I was suffering.  I enjoyed my day, but I suffered through it and would probably have enjoyed it more if I hadn’t felt like somone had inserted a set of knitting needles into my head.

So, why am I telling you this?

Simply, to learn from my mistake.  I’m nearly 28 years old, I’ve been to some very hot places and I have experienced dehydration before.  I know the danger signs, I know how to avoid it.  Yet, whilst the temperature was about a third of the hottest day in Japan, I got hit.

The temperatures at the Jamboree aren’t going to be quite those in Japan (thankfully!) but the humidity is going to be the same.  The site in America is much, much bigger than any Jamboree before.  Walking 20 miles in a day is probably not unreasonable.

The Official Site Thermometer in Japan.
That’s right. The air temperature reached 51.1 Degrees Celcius

This combination of exertion and high temperature/humidity is a breeding ground for dehydration and is something that everyone needs to be aware of.

I have a badge in the pile to be sewn onto my blanket which dates to the 2005 US National Jamboree.  The gentleman who swapped with me was a doctor who had worked at that event and they’d had these badges made up to hand out.  It is a picture of a water bottle with the words “Drink till your pee runs clear!”  In Japan, I was drinking probably about 2L of water an hour, and my pee was mostly clear.

Staying on top of your hydration is going to be vital to your Jamboree.

So, how can you tell if you’re dehydrated?

Have a look a the NHS Website on dehydration.  Looking down that list of symptoms, I can tick off a lot of them from Sunday – which makes me feel slightly more of an idiot.

I’ve pulled the pee chart, below, from the NHS Scotland website.  It rates the colour of your urine from 1 to 8, with 1 being almost pure water and 8 being “Seek medical attention”.  I know there has been talk amongst some units about issuing everyone with a laminated chart so you can compare as needed.  As gross or funny as this may sound, it’s actually a reasonable idea.

Clinical Pee Chart

Part of the problem with dehydration is, by the time you notice some of these symptoms, especially by the time your pee hits number 8, or you realise you’ve only peed twice in a day, it’s almost too late to recover yourself and you may find yourself in hospital with an IV of saline being pumped into you.

I think, with Japan, we were very aware of the temperature.  It was hard not to be.  The running joke became i.Sleep, i.Eat, i.Sweat… But as my experience at the weekend showed, it can happen even in very mild conditions.  So we will all need to be vigilant.

Back in Japan, it wasn’t uncommon to hear someone shouting “what colour was your pee?” or “when did you last drink?” or simply, “DRINK!” being shouted across the IST subcamp.  I saw units playing what was best described as drinking games, where any member of the unit would shout something, or see something and everyone would stop, uncork their water bottles and drink a few mouthfuls of water.  The Jamboree site is advertising water points.  It’s worth getting into the habit of filling your bottles or reservoir (or both) every time you pass one.

So to conclude, keep on top of your hydration and look after those around you.  If you are spending all day with a patrol or a work team and you haven’t seen someone drink, politely suggest they do.  The Jamboree is going to be so busy that it’ll be easy enough to forget to take on board fluids, but it’s vital that you do.  Whilst you’re out there, it might be worth remembering the immortal words of Father Jack Hackett from the Parish of Craggy Island…

Water, obviously…

And for those of us over the age of 18, or indeed 21 in certain US States, this might be a more useful urine colour analysis chart…

What colour is your pee?

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *