No matter where you live, a heat wave is probably going to hit your area of the country this summer.
In fact, you may have several heat waves affecting your region this spring, summer and fall.
There’s nothing you can do about that. But there is plenty you can do to keep yourself hydrated when it’s very hot outside. I’ll mention a few in a moment.
There are also a number of beverages that will do you more harm than good if you drink a lot of them. We’ll look at those as well.
Dehydration is serious
First off, let’s take a quick peek at what dehydration can do to someone. It’s not a pretty picture.
Basically, dehydration happens when people lose more fluids than they consume. During hot weather, the most pronounced loss of fluids occurs through perspiration. But it also happens during bathroom visits.
If you are only mildly dehydrated, it’s a pretty easy fix. Just drink more water. You can also drink most beverages that contain water.
But if you’ve advanced to severe dehydration, you need medical treatment ASAP. And that will probably involve being hooked up to an IV and fed fluids.
Water, water everywhere
Nobody wants to go through that. So, make sure you’re consuming plenty of the right fluids when you’re spending time outdoors on hot days.
Purified water is your best bet. The body craves it, so drink plenty of it. A few extra trips to the bathroom beats one trip to the emergency room any day of the week.
Water makes up about one-half of our body weight, so replenishing that supply is obviously important.
Many other beverages consist mostly of water. Including coconut water, maple water and fruit juices. They will help keep you hydrated as well.
Drink before and during
Now, it goes without saying that the more time you spend outdoors on hot days, and the more active you, the greater your chances of becoming dehydrated.
If you know you’re going to be engaging in outdoor activities on a hot day, there are two very important things you should do.
One is to drink plenty of water before you go outside. That way what you lose in sweat during that first hour or so won’t affect you.
The other is to have plenty of water with you so that you can drink regularly while you’re outdoors.
Fruits & veggies help, too
We usually think first of beverages when we’re hot. But nearly all foods have some water content to them.
Make sure you’re eating foods that will help replenish your liquids. Fruits and vegetables are very hydrating for your system.
Nutrient-rich green vegetables such as kale and spinach are helpful, as are water-based fruits including watermelon and cantaloupe.
It could be argued that a smoothie is more of a beverage than a food. But when it’s loaded with fruits and vegetables, it’s hard to tell.
Sports drinks… good or bad?
What about sports drinks? When we perspire, we lose more than just water. We also lose electrolytes including sodium and potassium.
That’s why some people feel refreshed by drinking a sports drink after they have perspired.
But unless you are an athlete who has just finished an extensive workout, a sports drink may do you more harm than good.
Sports drinks will put sugar and more sodium into your body than you need. There are better choices for quenching your thirst and replenishing your fluids.
Thirst is not always an indicator
Now, here’s the tricky part when it comes to potential dehydration. Especially for the oldest and youngest among us.
We don’t always feel as thirsty as we should. That’s why organizations such as the Mayo Clinic tell us that thirst is not always a reliable indicator of the body’s need for water.
In fact, sometimes older folks don’t feel thirsty until they are already starting to experience dehydration.
And, of course, infants can’t always communicate to parents that they are thirsty.
Watch for telltale signs
Adults should watch for certain signs of dehydration they are exhibiting. Including less frequent urination or dark colored urine.
Adults who are starting to experience dehydration may feel overly tired or dizzy. Or they may begin to feel confused.
Parents and grandparents should watch for signs of dehydration that their infants and young children may be displaying.
These include dry diapers for several hours, dry mouth and tongue, sunken eyes and cheeks, or listlessness and irritability.
Hot weather no-no’s
OK, so you know what to drink when it’s hot out. Let’s go over what you shouldn’t drink in hot weather.
The hot weather no-no’s include coffee, soft drinks, heavily-caffeinated energy drinks and alcohol.
Caffeine is a diuretic, which increases your frequency and volume of urine. This results in dehydration. So, the very thing some people choose to drink when they are thirsty actually makes them thirstier.
Alcohol is another diuretic. And it negatively influences the mechanism regulating water levels in your body.
Take it slow
One last thing. No matter what you drink or eat on a hot day, do it in moderation. Eat slowly and drink slowly.
Chugging a beverage – even something as harmless as water – doesn’t do your kidneys any good.
You’re much better off drinking water and other healthy beverages at a steady, moderate pace.
Here’s to staying hydrated this summer!