With summer comes an increased risk for becoming dehydrated. Even if you are just sitting in the shade, the warm and humid air can make you perspire. Sweating is a protective mechanism of your body. It helps you to regulate body temperature. As the sweat evaporates from your skin, it cools your body. This prevents your core body temperature from rising to dangerously high levels.
Because individuals tend to be more active during the warmer months, adequate hydration becomes even more important since the increased physical activity leads to a greater production of sweat. Dehydration results when the amount of liquid you consume does not match the amount you lose through sweating. When you are dehydrated, you are at an increased risk for developing a heat-related illness. Disorders that result from abnormally high core body temperatures can range in severity from mild muscle cramps to heat stroke, which can be life-threatening.
Children are especially susceptible to developing heat illnesses because they have immature thermoregulatory systems. It takes longer for children to start sweating compared to adults; and, the rate at which they produce sweat is not as fast. Furthermore, because children have a greater surface area to body mass ratio compared to adults, they gain heat more quickly when exposed to hot environments.
An understanding of the signs and symptoms of dehydration can help you take the appropriate action to prevent complications. These include:
- Muscle Cramps
- Sensation of feeling hungry (Note: this sensation can mislead you into thinking you need to eat; thus, you consume unnecessary calories. If you have recently eaten and feel hungry, try drinking water first to see if the symptom is alleviated.)
How can you prevent dehydration?
- Eat foods with a high water content, such as watermelon, oranges, etc., at every meal.
- Drink plenty of liquids throughout the day, even if you do not feel thirsty (scheduling regular water breaks may help).
- If you will be exercising in warm weather, you need to drink plenty of fluids before, during, and after the exercise. About 2-3 hours prior to being physically active, you should drink 17-20 fluid ounces of water or sports drink. Then, when it gets closer to the start of your exercise session, around 10-20 minutes before, it is recommended that you drink 7-10 fluid ounces of water or sports drink. You will want to drink this same amount every 10-20 minutes during your session. Following the activity, you will want to consume 16-20 fluid ounces of water or sports drink for every pound of body weight lost from the exercise. This should be ingested within 2 hours of completing the physical activity.
- Avoid caffeinated and alcoholic beverages which can increase fluid loss through increased urine output.
- Limit intake of carbonated beverages which may lead to a “full” sensation causing you to decrease your fluid intake.
How can you optimize your fluid intake throughout the day?
- Carry a water bottle with you.
- Choose a water bottle that has measurement markings, making it easier to keep track of how much liquid you consume.
- Opt for drinks that are palatable, such as flavored water or plain water with a lemon slice.
- Keep your drink cool. The ideal temperature range of your drink is 50-59 degrees Fahrenheit.
Keeping your body well-hydrated promotes health and well-being. Becoming dehydrated can interfere with concentration and reduce your performance during daily tasks. It also can lead to overeating, which has its own set of complications. Children are at an increased risk for becoming dehydrated. Because it may be difficult to get your child to drink more water, consider serving them foods high in water content and homemade popcicles from 100% unsweetened fruit juice.
How do you keep hydrated during warmer days? Share with us, we want to know!