Monday Medical: Tips to avoid dehydration

Hydration is key to your health during the dog days of summer

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Water intake tips

■ Start the day with a cup of hot water with a squeeze of fresh lemon. This will give your digestive system a boost.

■ Instead of caffeine and alcohol, drink water. Caffeine and alcohol act as diuretics and cause the body to lose water.

■ Keep a water bottle on your desk and carry a bottle of water with you when you are on the go.

■ If you are cold, drink warm water instead of coffee or tea, which can dehydrate you.

■ Ask for a glass of water to go with your coffee and tea in cafes.

■ Drink a glass of water before and during each meal.

■ Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables as these have a high water content and will contribute to your daily water intake.

Source: www.wateraid.org

— Steamboat Springs is experiencing summer temperatures that are up to 30 degrees lower than in some sizzling cities in the southern United States.

Yet a combination of our altitude, strong sunshine and time spent outdoors still can create a risk of becoming dehydrated. As the dog days of summer continue, are you sure you are drinking enough water?

The National Institutes of Health reminds us that water is involved in all body processes. It regulates body temperature, moistens and protects tissues and lubricates our joints. Water protects organs, helps prevent constipation and lessens the burden on kidneys and liver by flushing out waste products.

It also helps transport materials in, out and around our body. It dissolves minerals and other nutrients, and carries them, along with oxygen, to cells. Obviously, we all need to continually replenish our water supply for those processes to work correctly.

While most healthy bodies are very good at regulating water, elderly people and young children need to be a little more careful. So do individuals who are taking certain medications or exerting themselves physically.

The body regulates how much water it keeps so it can maintain levels of the various minerals it needs. But every time you breathe out, sweat, urinate or have a bowel movement, you lose some fluid.

A healthy person compensates by releasing stores of water, mostly from muscles. And, of course, you get thirsty. That’s your body’s way of telling you it needs more water.

At a certain point, however, if you lose enough water, your body can’t compensate. Eventually you can become dehydrated, meaning that your body doesn’t have enough fluid to work properly.

Any healthy person can become dehydrated on hot days. Dehydration also is a risk if you have been exercising hard and losing a lot of fluid very quickly.

Yampa Valley Medical Center registered dietitian Cara Marrs says hydration is an often-overlooked part of sports nutrition. In a YVMC Facebook posting earlier this summer, Marrs pointed out that though water is the No. 1 fluid for hydration, eating a diet high in fruits and vegetables also is recommended.

How much water does your body need?

A common recommendation is for an average person on an average day to drink six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water. But those who are spending time out in the hot sun or who have certain medical conditions, such as diarrhea, may need more than that.

Signs of dehydration in adults are being thirsty, urinating less often than usual, having dark-colored urine, having dry skin, feeling tired, dizziness and fainting. Signs of dehydration in babies and young children include a dry mouth and tongue, crying without tears, no wet diapers for three hours or more, a high fever and being unusually sleepy or drowsy.

If you suspect dehydration, the National Institutes of Health recommends drinking small amounts of water throughout a period of time. Taking too much at once can overload the stomach and cause vomiting. For people exercising in the heat and losing a lot of minerals in sweat, sports drinks can be helpful.

It is important to keep in mind that elderly individuals can have a decreased sensitivity to thirst and accompanying greater risk for dehydration. Infants and young toddlers are vulnerable because they can’t tell their parents when they’re thirsty.

However, as Marrs says, “Once you are thirsty you have already begun to become dehydrated.”

The best way to deal with dehydration is to prevent it.

Christine McKelvie is the public relations director at Yampa Valley Medical Center. She can be reached at christine.mckelvie@yvmc.org.

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