It’s hot. You’ve got a headache. You feel tired.
You don’t have to be ill to have these symptoms. These woes are classic signs of dehydration. And it’s surprising how many people have them and don’t know why.
While you may not realize them, other signs of dehydration include:
- Decreased urine output
- Dizziness or lightheadedness
- Dry mouth
- Dry skin
- Muscle fatigue (muscle tissue contains 75 percent water)
Why is water so important?
While the average person can survive without food for almost a month, you can’t survive longer than one week without water. It’s no wonder, when you consider that water makes up approximately 70 percent of body weight; 80 percent of brain tissue; and even 20 percent of bones.
The essential role of water to our existence helps emphasize the need to stay hydrated, especially during the dog days of summer. With that, here’s some summer survival tips:
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty. Thirst can be an inaccurate guide of the need for fluids. By the time you feel thirsty, your body has lost more than one percent of its total water.
- Drink throughout the day. If you are drinking enough, a gauge that you are sufficiency hydrated is that you should urinate frequently and that the color of urine should be clear with a tinge of yellow. (Dark yellow urine is a sign of dehydration).
- Drink the right fluids. Water is the best choice, but sports drinksand fruit or vegetable juices are also acceptable as they provide electrolytes and energy. (You can dilute the sports drinks or juices with water to lessen the sugar /calorie intake). Meanwhile, avoid caffeinated or alcoholic beverages, which can be dehydrating.
- Eat foods with a high water content. Fruits and vegetables are in this category. There are many sources (not just the obvious choices, such as watermelon). Here are some surprising facts:
- Broccoli is 89 percent water
- Ice cream is 60 percent water
- Lettuce is 96 percent water
- Low-fat milk is 90 percent water
- Low-fat vanilla yogurt is 79 percent water
- Oatmeal is 84 percent water
- Tomatoes are 95 percent water
- Drink the right amount.Unlike the old adage of eight, eight-ounce glasses of water a day, there is no exact one-size-fits-all. However, The National Academies of Science, Engineering and Medicine provides the following general recommendations:
- For women,approximately 2.7 liters (91 ounces daily) of total water
- For men, approximately 3.7 liters (125 ounces daily) of total water
- Drink for your circumstances. If you’re sedentary and in an air-conditioned environment, you’ll need less fluids, for example,than an active,outdoor exerciser. However, if you’re someone who experiences excessive sweating, you may need more fluids to replace what you lose through perspiration. (Note: Excessive sweating, including of the hands and feet, could be a sign of hyperhidrosis)
- Test hydration by weighing yourself. Temporary weight loss following physical activity is not uncommon. For every pound lost during activity, drink an additional 19 ounces (2+ cups) of fluids. If you lose three percent or more of your body weight, this could be a sign of significant or serious dehydration.
What are some additional tips for active people?
It is particularly important to adjust your fluid intake when working out. Whether physical labor or exercise, drink before, during and after activity. As a rule of thumb, follow these guidelines:
- Drink 15 to 20 ounces of water one to two hours before activity
- Drink between eight and 10 ounces of water 15 minutes before you begin activity
- Drink another eight ounces every 15 to 20 minutes of activity
But, don’t overdrink! Some exercisers can go overboard. Excessive fluid intake can lead to hyponatremia, a condition in which the level of sodium in the blood is dangerously low. Drinking too much water dilutes sodium, and the absence of sodium (an electrolyte) causes the body’s failure to regulate the amount of water in and around cells.
Common symptoms of over-hydration are nausea and vomiting, headache and confusion or disorientation. If you suspect you or someone you know may be suffering from hyponatremia, you should seek immediate medical care.