Staying Hydrated in the Heat

Heather Reese Health Guide
  • Nearly 400 people die of heat-related illnesses in the United States each year, and many of these deaths are preventable. Hydration is an important tool in protecting your body against the health risks caused by the soaring temperatures.


    Summer is ripe with situations that could lead to dehydration. Warmer weather means more outdoor activities, and being physically active outdoors in the heat increases the risk of dehydration and other temperature-related conditions.


    Dehydration is the most common heat-related illness. It occurs when your body does not have as much water and fluids as it should. Dehydration can be caused by losing too much fluid, not drinking enough water or fluids, or both.

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    Feeling Thirsty

    Don't rely on thirst to let you know when to drink water. Once the thirst sensation hits, you are already dehydrated. You should consume fluids before you are physically active and then every 15 to 20 minutes if you exercising outside in the heat. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that athletes drink 16 ounces, or 2 cups, of fluids two hours before engaging in physical activity outdoors.


    At Risk

    Anyone who is participating in physical activity, which leads to sweating and fluid loss, is at risk for dehydration and this risk increases with the temperature. Infants and children are more susceptible to dehydration than adults because of their smaller body weight and higher turnover of water and electrolytes. So it's particularly important for coaches and parents to encourage fluid intake during outdoor sports activities. The elderly and those with illnesses are also at higher risk. Dehydration can cause damage to your muscles and kidneys and when severe, it is a life threatening emergency.


    Symptoms of dehydration include:

    • - Dry or sticky mouth
    • - Thirst
    • - Headache
    • - Dizziness
    • - Cramps
    • - Excessive fatigue
    • - Heart palpitations


    Sports Drinks

    Sports drinks have increased in popularity in recent years and there are more varieties than ever on the store shelves. These drinks include glucose and sodium, which aid in hydration. However, these sports drinks are also high in sugar and calories which can lead to weight gain. Unless you are engaging in a very intense workout that lasts longer than 90 minutes, water is just as effective at replacing your body's fluids as sports drinks.


    Other Fluid Sources

    Water isn't your only defense against dehydration. Fresh fruit like watermelon and apples, and caffeine free beverages like low-fat milk and fruits juices can help keep your body hydrated. However, experts recommend avoiding high sugar fruit juices right before being physically active.


    Fluids to Avoid

    Soft drinks and other caffeinated beverages are not good choices when trying to stay hydrated. Caffeine acts as a diuretic and can also have laxative effects. You should also avoid alcohol when engaging in sports or other activities. Alcohol also acts as a diuretic and can worsen dehydration - it can also impair your judgment and increase your risk of injury.

Published On: July 18, 2007