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glass of waterIn the Panhandle of Florida, we are starting to get into the heat of the summer. With temperatures soaring, your sweat is going to start pouring. It is extremely important  to replace the fluids lost through sweating. In this article we will cover what hydrated versus dehydrated means, why it is important, and tips on how to stay hydrated in the Florida heat.

What is Hydration, and Why Does it Matter?

Hydration is the process of introducing our body to additional fluid (i.e. water). Dehydration is when you have used or lost more fluid that you are taking in. Your body is unable to continue functioning properly without fluids. Staying hydrated may seem like a difficult task, but it is extremely important for us to stay hydrated for optimal health and performance throughout the day. “Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.” (1) Without staying hydrated, we can seriously harm ourselves. Whether you are considered youth or an adult, you can still lose approximately 40 percent (2) of your body’s water during hard work or exercise.

How to Stay Hydrated

  1. Drink lots of fluids:   Don’t wait till you are or feel thirsty to drink. By the time that you feel this, you are already slightly dehydrated. It is important to drink fluids, preferably water, throughout the day. During the summer, while it is hot, it should be a top priority to replenish fluids lost in our body. A good way to start the day is by drinking a glass of water when you wake up and get your body going. Fluids are fluids, but some fluids are better for us than others. When replenishing the fluids that we have lost through sweating, make sure that it is mainly from water. Some of the fluids can also be from flavored water, tea, or coffee. Try not to consume as many sugar-sweetened beverages, as many of them act as a diuretic. The sugar found in these drinks tends to draw the water out of your cells, making you feel thirsty a short time after drinking it. The sugar drawing the water out of cells will also make you need to urinate more quickly, therefore losing even more fluid. Something “punny” for this National Hydration Day: No matter how much soda I drink, I’m still so thirsty… I must be “soda-hydrated!”
  2. Eat Fuel Foods: Make sure that you are fueling body with the appropriate foods. Certain fruits and vegetables contain a large amount of water. Examples of water-rich fruits are: watermelon (its in the name!), strawberries, peaches, and pineapples. Some examples of vegetables with a high water content are: Cucumbers, leafy green (i.e. lettuce), celery, and tomatoes. Foods that are highly processed tend to be dehydrated and have lots of sugar or salt, which dehydrates you more.
  3. Look at the Weather: Stay inside when it gets too hot outside and when it is extremely humid. The sun is at its peak between 10 am and 2 pm every day, meaning that that is when it will be hottest outside. Plan necessary outdoor activities for the early morning or later in the evening. The higher the humidity, the more you are going to sweat.
  4. How to Dress: Make sure that you dress for the weather, appropriately. Loose fitting clothing allows your skin to breathe, keeping your body cooler. Lighter shades do not absorb the heat like dark colors. Wear a wide brimmed hat to keep your head cool. Also, use plenty of sunscreen. Getting sunburned is not just uncomfortable, it can also increase your skins’ temperature, making it hard to stay cool.

Signs of Dehydration:  Be aware of the signs of dehydration. As stated in number one, do not wait for the signs of dehydration to begin drinking fluids. Some of the signs of dehydration include but are not limited to: dark or smelly urine, vomiting, bad breath, dry mouth, irritability, confusion, and fatigue.  If you are dehydrated or have lost a lot of fluid through sweating, vomiting, or diarrhea please seek medical attention.

Some Tips for Staying Hydrated

I have a hard time getting myself to drink plenty of fluids, so below are a few tips that I try to follow to keep myself properly hydrated.

  1. Keep a bottle or glass of water by your bed. While you are sleeping, your body is not receiving any fluids, so it is becoming slightly dehydrated. Having water close by the bed means you do not have to get up and disrupt your sleep.
  2. Purchase a reusable water bottle. If you have a reusable glass or metal water bottle, you can keep it with you all the time. If you have easy access to water, you are more likely to drink it.
  3. Flavor your water. Plain water can become boring if you drink it all the time. Flavor your water with some fresh fruit or a flavoring packet.
  4. Try to drink at least 8 glasses of “good” fluids every day. Water is extremely good for you, but you can also consume clear broth, tea, coffee, or sports drinks. This will help prevent water from becoming boring. Just make sure that you limit the intake of caffeine and alcohol.
  5. Check the color of your urine. Believe it or not, this can be an good indicator as to whether you are hydrated or not. The paler, or more clear, your urine is, the more hydrated you are. If the urine you pass is darker, yellow or even orange, you are more than likely dehydrated.
  6. Download an app. There are apps on our phones for everything now-a-days. There are apps that can send you notifications to drink more water. Some of these apps are also capable of recording how much you drink.

Staying hydrated is extremely important, especially now that we are facing the “dog-days” of summer. Drink lots of fluids, but do not wait till you feel thirsty. The more that you sweat, the more fluids you need to take in. Download this hydration tip sheet to remember to stay hydrated!

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Claire Reach