When you think of dehydration, you probably think of hot weather or strenuous activities like running a marathon. But did you know that even moderate exercise, daily activities, and certain medications can dehydrate you? We’ll cover six ways dehydration can sneak up on you and provide some tips, like when you should drink electrolytes to prevent dehydration. But first, let’s learn more about dehydration, why it happens, and what signs you should look for.
How Does Dehydration Happen?
Dehydration happens when you lose more fluid than you take in. Your body needs water for all kinds of things, like keeping your temperature down and lubricating your joints. So when you work out, you sweat to cool off, and that sweat is mostly water. If you don’t replace that lost fluid, dehydration can set in. Likewise, you can quickly become dehydrated if you’re sick and have diarrhea or vomiting.
Signs of Dehydration
The first signs of dehydration are usually thirst and a dry mouth. You might also have dark-colored urine or fewer trips to the bathroom than usual. As dehydration worsens, you might feel dizzy or lightheaded, have muscle cramps, or feel tired and irritable. If you don’t treat dehydration, it can lead to severe problems like heat stroke or seizures.
Top Six Dehydration Culprits
1) Strenuous Exercise
When you exercise, your body sweats to cool itself down. This sweating process causes you to lose water and electrolytes, which can lead to dehydration if not replaced. The best way to combat this is by drinking water before, during, and after your workout. If exercising for more than an hour, consider mixing electrolyte powder into your water to replenish those lost electrolytes. If you’re active and have trouble staying hydrated, research hydration strategies for athletes and find a method that works best for you.
2) Fever, Vomiting, and Diarrhea
If you’re sick with a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, it’s even more important to stay hydrated. These symptoms can quickly lead to dehydration, so drink plenty of fluids — even if you don’t feel like it. This is especially important when sick with a serious illness like the flu, killing thousands of Americans yearly. Clear liquids like water, broth, and electrolyte-fortified drinks are usually the best choices when feeling under the weather. Avoid sugary drinks like soda and fruit juice, as they can worsen dehydration.
3) Too Much Sun
We all know that spending too much time outdoors in the sun is excellent for mental and physical health, but it can also lead to dehydration. All activities, from gardening to attending music festivals, can pose a risk of dehydration in hot weather. Be sure to drink plenty of fluids and take breaks in the shade or air conditioning when possible. And don’t forget to apply sunscreen!
4) Alcohol Consumption
It’s no secret that alcohol is a dehydrator. In fact, that’s one of the reasons why you tend to feel so awful the morning after a night of heavy drinking. Alcohol is a diuretic, which makes your body produce more urine. And when you’re urinating more frequently, you’re also losing electrolytes like sodium and potassium — essential for proper hydration. So the best way to prevent dehydration if you’re consuming alcohol is to drink plenty of water between alcoholic beverages and avoid consuming too much during the day or evening.
5) Certain Medical Conditions
Some medical conditions can also put you at a higher risk for dehydration. For example, people with diabetes often have to urinate more frequently because their bodies cannot process glucose properly. Kidney disease can also lead to increased urination as well as fluid retention. This can have a cyclical effect, where dehydration then causes further kidney damage and more significant issues. If you have a medical condition that puts you at risk for dehydration, be sure to talk to your doctor about how much water you should be drinking each day and whether or not you need to take any extra precautions.
6) Medications with Diuretic Side Effects
Many medications — including some blood pressure medications — can cause increased urination and put you at risk for dehydration. If you’re taking any medication, check the side effects before increasing your water intake. In addition, some medications will require you to increase your fluid intake slowly so your body can adjust without overloading. If you have any questions, talk to your doctor or pharmacist.
Practical Tips for Avoiding Dehydration
Here are some practical tips you can use to avoid dehydration in your everyday life:
- Drink plenty of fluids throughout the day, especially water – It’s important to drink plenty of fluids throughout the day to stay hydrated. Water is the best option, but you can also drink other fluids like juices and teas. It’s important to avoid sugary drinks like soda, as they can actually contribute to dehydration.
- Drink before, during, and after exercise – If you’re going to be exercising, it’s important to drink before, during, and after your workout. This will help to replenish the fluids that you’re losing through sweat. It’s best to drink water or a sports drink that contains electrolytes.
- Increase fluid intake in really hot or cold weather – When it’s hot outside, your body loses fluids more quickly. Likewise, when it’s cold, your body’s thirst mechanism is up to 40 percent less effective than usual. So in really hot or cold weather, it’s essential to be extra vigilant about drinking fluids.
- Eat foods that contain water – Certain foods can help you stay hydrated because they contain water. Some good options include fruits and vegetables like watermelon, cucumber, and tomatoes. You can also get fluids from soups and stews.
- Monitor your urine color – Your urine can give you a good indication of whether or not you’re properly hydrated. If it’s light yellow or clear, you’re doing a good job of drinking enough fluids. If it’s dark yellow or amber, you need to drink more water.
- Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink – Lastly, it’s important to remember that thirst is actually a late sign of dehydration, so by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already on your way to becoming dehydrated. Instead of waiting until you’re thirsty to drink, make a conscious effort to drink fluids throughout the day. This will help you stay hydrated and avoid any potential health problems.
Final Thoughts on Avoiding Dehydration
As we have seen, dehydration is a serious condition that can lead to many health problems. It is important to take steps to avoid dehydration, especially during hot weather or when you are exercising. Drink plenty of fluids, avoid drinking too much alcohol, and take breaks often if you are sweating. If you start to feel dehydrated, drink more fluids and seek medical help if necessary. With a little effort, you can stay healthy and hydrated.