Don’t Dehydrate Yourself In Winter

Losing excessive amounts of body fluid is not usually a hazard associated with cold weather.  In fact, most people associate dehydration with summer heat and humidity. But winter, too, can drain the body of essential fluids for several reasons:

  • In winter, we tend to go for longer periods without water, not realizing that breathing cold and dry air causes the body to lose significant amounts of fluid.
  • When we perspire in cold weather, the sweat turns into vapor and isn’t directly on our skin, so there is not the excessive perspiration that acts as a visual cue for us to drink.
  • In winter, people feel about 40 percent less thirsty, even though the body’s need for water is unchanged year round.
  • Because we don’t feel thirst as acutely as well do in summer, we’re less likely to keep a bottle of water handy during cold-weather months.

Dehydration is a danger for the body. But most people don’t realize the hazards it poses to the heart.

“People become dehydrated if they drink less than six eight-ounce glasses of water a day,” says William A. Tansey, III, MD, an expert in cardiovascular disease at Summit Medical Group.  “With less blood volume the heart has to beat faster to keep up.”

You can enjoy outdoor activities and stay active in cold weather—hiking, running, skiing or snow shoeing, for example—but be aware of maintaining your body’s ideal ration of water.

To avoid dehydration in cold climates:

  • Take fluids with you before you leave the house.
  • If you don’t feel like drinking water, drink a warm non-caffeinated drink, such as hot tea to help the body stay hydrated.
  • Drink often, even if you are not thirsty.
  • Remember that certain fluids dehydrate the body.  These include alcohol, carbonated drinks and caffeinated drinks, including sports drinks and energy drinks.
  • Monitor the color and amount of urine your body is producing.  Your urine should be light yellow or clear.  If it is darker, drink more water.
  • Familiarize yourself with other common symptoms of dehydration including fatigue, lightheadedness and even irritability.

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