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Water is key to surviving Portland's hottest days

Health and Wellness, General, Health Alert

With summer sun comes intense heat, and Portlanders need to know about the dangers of dehydration as temperatures soar past 90 degrees and into triple digits. That's because when it gets too hot, our bodies typically use more fluids and we can become overheated.

Sixty percent of the human body is made up of water and losing even just a small amount of it can cause mild dehydration, leading to headaches, dizziness and fatigue. Though it depends on a number of factors, including weight, climate and activity level, people typically need about eight cups of water each day to stay hydrated and healthy.

But you can get water in a number of ways, whether it's from drinking a glass in the morning or having a few strawberries as an afternoon snack.

After many cold and rainy months in the Pacific Northwest, it's easy to forget that the sun and warm weather can be dangerous, but take precaution in the heat. Stay hydrated, protect yourself against the sun, and know the warning signs for dehydration and heat exhaustion.

These simple tips can help you stay hydrated as the sizzle of summer continues:

  1. Pack a water bottle. Get into the habit of bringing a water bottle when you leave your house or apartment. Sipping water throughout the day, whether you're hiking under the sun or working at your desk, will help keep you hydrated. Water is a healthier option than sugar-sweetened juices, soda and other beverages.
  2. Grab a sports drink when the time is right. Sports drinks can help you rehydrate and boost electrolytes, but know when it's right to choose a sports drink instead of water. Sports drinks are typically best following a 60- to 90-minute workout with heavy sweating, whether it's a long-distance bike ride or a cardio session at a local fitness center. Remember that these drinks contain sugar and calories, so sticking to drinking water regularly is always the best way to stay hydrated and healthy.
  3. Add a little flavor to your H2O. Water can be too plain for some people. Mix it up by adding chunks of flavorful fruit, some crushed mint leaves or even a splash of all-natural fruit juice to your water. Lemons, oranges and limes are a simple, low-cal way to add some zest to your water. Cucumbers and melons are also good options to naturally sweeten water.
  4. Eat more produce. Fruits and vegetables are full of water and a number of vitamins and minerals that promote good health. For your next trip to Sauvie Island or hike in the Columbia River Gorge, ditch the carb-heavy chips or crackers and bring carrot or celery sticks. Carrots are made up of 87 percent water while celery is a whopping 95 percent water. These healthy alternatives boost your water intake while satisfying your hunger.
  5. Check the label for sodium. Cured meats and fish, cheeses, chips and mixed nuts are loaded with sodium that can cause dehydration. Look out for foods and beverages that may be packed with sodium. Some big culprits include sauces and salad dressings, canned vegetables, and tomato juice.
  6. Say no to fast food. Grabbing a breakfast sandwich before a morning workout or a burger and fries on your way home after a long day can dehydrate you. That's because these foods are extremely high in sodium. The average person shouldn't consume more than 2,300 milligrams of sodium per day, yet some fast food items contain as much or more sodium than the recommended amount for a whole day.

Signs of dehydration

  • Extreme thirst
  • Weakness or fatigue
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Heart palpitations
  • Decreased urine
  • Concentrated and yellow urine
  • Dry mouth or bad breath
  • Muscle cramps
  • Fever and chills
  • Headaches

Remember to seek medical attention if you’re experiencing dehydration or elevated body temperature from heat exhaustion. For mild dehydration, visit an urgent care near you

Anyone experiencing symptoms of heatstroke — such as body temperature at or above 104º F, no sweating despite the high heat, mental confusion, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing and/or throbbing headache — needs to head to the emergency room immediately.