Most of the time, people don’t actually need to worry about having low potassium levels, but there are times, such as in the summer that potassium levels can dip, and it can be much more dangerous than many people realize.
Potassium helps to make the muscles work. This includes the heart, which is part of the reason that people with low potassium may experience heart arrhythmia. Excess potassium is removed in the urine, but when a person is not getting enough potassium, or is losing too much of it, it can be hard to replace it.
Summer is a common time for people to develop low potassium levels, especially if they spend too much time in the heat. Excessive sweating often contributes to low potassium levels, as well as certain medications, diuretics, vomiting, diarrhea, and bulimia.
Symptoms of low potassium
When a person is experiencing a mild case of low potassium, it can be difficult to identify since the symptoms are often similar to other symptoms. Some of the most common symptoms of low potassium include muscle cramps, fainting, and dizziness.
Other symptoms may include vomiting, nausea, bloating, cramping, constipation, frequent urination and feeling constantly thirsty, irregular heartbeat, feelings of weakness, fatigue, numbness or tingling, delirium, confusion or hallucinations.
If you begin to experience possible symptoms of low potassium, and if you have been sweating profusely, or you have recently had diarrhea, it is likely that you are dehydrated, and you may benefit from eating a banana, or drinking something to help to re-balance the electrolytes.
If the common symptoms, such as fatigue, muscle cramps and dizziness don’t subside within a few hours of consuming potassium and re-hydrating, it is time to seek medical attention.
Acute low levels of potassium need to be treated as soon as possible, as they can be extremely dangerous. Your health care provider will likely run blood tests to determine if your electrolytes are okay, and if potassium levels are severely low, will likely start to administer potassium intravenously. In cases of mild low potassium levels, potassium levels will likely be restored by administering pills and encouraging a high potassium diet.
You can prevent low potassium levels by making sure that you get enough of this electrolyte as much as possible. When spending long hours in hot weather or exercising, be aware of how much sweating you’re doing, and substitute every second drink or so with an electrolyte drink. If you’re worried about high sugar and sodium levels of these drinks, stick to about eight ounces at a time, which can help to replace the potassium you’re losing.
Make sure to incorporate potassium rich foods in your diet. Of course, bananas are full of it, but don’t forget about tomatoes and sweet potatoes with the skin on. Fish, fruits, yogurts, milk and poultry are also excellent sources of potassium.