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How to avoid dehydration this summer

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 that you should drink 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 that hydration is important all year, and 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. It 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 and helps lubricate and cushion joints.

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 are sick with 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.

If the urine is pale yellow to nearly clear, you are getting plenty of water. If the urine is medium yellow to orange, you probably need to drink more water. 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 soda, 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.

Some levels of dehydration are even more dangerous. You can come to urgent care for mild dehydration. 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.