About 27 years ago, my husband’s job transferred our family to Omaha. On a humid day with temperatures near 100 degrees, we were moving into our new home. The air conditioner could not keep the house cool as the movers kept doors open as they moved furniture and boxes into the house. After unpacking items for several hours, I suddenly felt tired, light headed, with muscle aches from my head to my toes. Bless my husband, because he advised me to drink a glass of water. Within 20 minutes, I felt great. At that time in my life, I was not a dietitian. It never occurred to me that my symptoms were a sign of dehydration.
When it is hot and humid outside, the risk of dehydration increases. When the air is humid, sweat cannot evaporate and cool the body as quickly as it usually does. This can lead to an increase in body temperature and the need for more fluids. Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluid than it is provided. Mild to moderate dehydration can be reversed by drinking more fluids. Severe dehydration needs immediate medical attention.
Symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include: thirst (although I did not feel thirsty), tiredness, dizziness or lightheadness, headache, sleepiness, decreased urine output. Urine color is amber, more like apple juice, instead of clear to light lemonade. Infants, children, endurance athletes, older adults, and people with chronic illnesses have a higher risk of dehydration especially on hot humid days.
The best plan is to prevent dehydration. Drinking fluids and eating foods high in water such as fruits and vegetables (one cup of watermelon chunks is about ¾ cup water). Producing frequent, clear, dilute urine is a good indication you are hydrated. Before exercising, mowing the lawn, painting or other outdoor activities, be sure to drink water and continue to drink water at regular intervals. Running or other strenuous activities increases the body’s need for fluids. Sport drinks (6 to 8% carbohydrate) are good options for high intensity activity lasting longer than 60 minutes. Sports drinks contain carbohydrates and electrolytes (sodium and potassium). Sodium retains fluid which helps to maintain hydration during the event.
When our son played high school sports, the coach weighed the players before practice or the game. Then he weighed them after practice or the event. A weight loss indicated fluid loss. For every pound lost during the practice or the game, the player needed to rehydrate with two cups of water. It is best to begin exercise or games well-hydrated since most athletes find it difficult to match fluid intake with sweat loss while exercising.
Preventing dehydration gives you one more reason to increase fruit and vegetable intake. Daily, do enjoy drinking water. Flavor water with lemon, lime, or cucumber slices. Drink water before, during, and after exercise. Start and end your day with a glass of water. Enjoy this summer while keeping your body hydrated.