Back to articles

Tips for avoiding dehydration (hint: drink water!)

Health and Wellness

How much water do you need daily to avoid dehydration? That’s a good question, especially during summer. The answer depends on things like your age, your sex, whether you’re pregnant or breastfeeding and what physical activities you’re doing.

The old rule is eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. But someone working construction outdoors on a hot summer day needs more hydration than someone working in an air-conditioned office.

The truth is hydration is important all year. The recommendations vary for each person. Let’s dip our toes into some hydration facts.

How dehydration affects you

Dehydration is more than just feeling thirsty. It can lead to confusion and mood changes. It can cause your body to overheat.

Dehydration can cause a dry, sticky mouth, dizziness, constipation, headaches and fatigue. It can also lead to seizures, brain damage, and kidney or heart problems.

Drinking enough water every day is vital for your overall health. Water helps your body keep a normal temperature. It helps lubricate and cushion joints.

Drinking water also protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues. And it helps your body get rid of waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements.

Who’s most at risk for dehydration?

Some people are more vulnerable to becoming dehydrated. Those at higher risk include:

  • Older adults, who sometimes lose their sense of thirst as they age

  • Infants and young children
  • People with chronic illnesses like diabetes or kidney disease
  • People who take certain medicines that cause them to sweat or urinate more
  • People who exercise or work outdoors during hot weather
  • People who have diarrhea or who are vomiting

How do you know if you’re dehydrated?

Feeling thirsty is the most obvious sign, but there are others. Another more obvious sign is the color of your urine.

“For most folks, if the urine is pale yellow to nearly clear, they are getting plenty of water. If the urine is medium yellow to orange, drink more water!” advises Gina Easley, a family nurse practitioner at Adventist Health’s Gresham Station urgent care clinic. Other signs and symptoms of dehydration include:

  • Dry mouth
  • Urinating or sweating less than normal
  • Dry skin
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness

Drinking water and other ways to hydrate

Plain water is best. It has no calories, and you can flavor it with a slice of lime, lemon or cucumber.

You can also get some of your daily fluid from eating certain fruits and vegetables. Did you know some fruits and veggies get 90 percent of their weight from water? These include:

  • Cantaloupe and watermelon
  • Grapefruit
  • Strawberries
  • Broccoli and cauliflower
  • Green and red cabbage
  • Celery
  • Cucumber and zucchini
  • Eggplant
  • Lettuce and spinach
  • Sweet peppers
  • Radishes
  • Tomatoes

Don’t seek to rehydrate yourself with alcohol or energy drinks. Many energy drinks contain as much or more sugar than a soft drink and way more caffeine than coffee, tea or soda. And alcohol can actually cause dehydration.

Sports drinks, on the other hand, can be helpful if you’re exercising in the heat and losing minerals through sweat.

What to do about dehydration

Most of us can avoid dehydration by eating a healthy diet and drinking fluids throughout the day. But if you think you’re in danger of being dehydrated, drink a glass of water. Remember: If you wait until you feel thirsty to drink water, you're already behind on your hydration needs.

If you think you’re seriously dehydrated — maybe because you’re ill and can’t hold down fluids — call your doctor or come to any Adventist Health Portland urgent care. Locations and wait times are available online.

Some levels of dehydration are even more dangerous. “We are happy to see you in urgent care for mild dehydration,” says Gina. “However, if you are passing out or have bone-dry eyes and mouth or an inability to take fluids by mouth, you might need a higher level of care at the emergency room.”