“During the hot summer months it is especially important to stay hydrated,” says Romi Pattison, Registered Dietitian at Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital. “Spending time outside when you are sweating and not drinking enough to replace the lost fluid can lead to dehydration or even heat exhaustion.”
Thirst is usually a good indicator of dehydration, but under extreme heat and increased sweating, thirst may not keep pace with your water needs. Other facts to keep in mind is that thirst is often misjudged as hunger and the feeling of thirst gradually decreases as we age. It is important to drink water at regular intervals and not rely on thirst to always let you know when you need fluid.
Mild to moderate dehydration may cause the following symptoms: thirst; dry mouth, lips and skin; headache; fatigue; muscle weakness; nausea; constipation; dizziness or lightheadedness; decreased urine output; or increased temperature. A good way to assess your own hydration is urine color; dark colored urine indicates dehydration. When well-hydrated, urine should be light yellow or clear. Think of the color of lemonade vs. the color of apple juice.
“What should you be drinking?” asks Romi. “The average adult needs 8-12 cups of water per day or 2-3 liters. Exercise, heat, altitude, and illness may increase needs. Plain water is your best bet. It is readily available, low in sodium and has no calories, fat or cholesterol.”
Here are some tips for increasing your fluid intake:
- Drink a glass of water as soon as you get up each day.
- Every morning, fill a 64-ounce to 96-ounce container with water for the day. When you drink all the water in the container, you have met your daily water need of 8 to 12 cups.
- Add slices of lemon, lime, orange, or cucumber to water for a hint of refreshing flavor.
- Enjoy water breaks instead of coffee or tea breaks.
- When passing a water fountain, stop and take a drink.
- At social gatherings substitute sparkling water for alcoholic drinks, or alternate them.
- Drink water before, every 15 minutes during, and after physical activity.
- Weigh before and after exercise. The difference is almost all water. Replace each pound lost with 2 cups of water.
Romi adds, “It is a hydration myth that sports drinks are better for hydration. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes that are needed after strenuous exercise. For most people, unless you are engaged in vigorous activity for more than one hour, sports beverages are not required as you can replace lost fluids with plain water. Sports drinks shouldn’t be your main source of fluid during the day because they contain calories that can add up quickly.”
Individuals that are interested in a personalized hydration and nutrition plan this summer may contact Prairie du Chien Memorial Hospital’s Nutrition Services Department at 608-357-2000.
The photo shows six of the 15 staff members holding glasses representing the number of glasses of water needed each day by adults. From left: Donna McKinney, Nick Morgan, Sue Bahls, Romi Pattison, Rita Kazda and Renee Martin.