The National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration reports that July of 2012 was the hottest month on record for the nation. The average temperature for the contiguous U.S. during July was 77.6°F, 3.3°F above the 20th century average. During these hot summer days, we need to remind ourselves of the importance of staying hydrated. Your body is about two-thirds water and your brain even more, about 85 percent. Water is vital to the functioning of every cell and organ system in the human body. Water regulates body temperature, lubricates and cushions joints, protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues, and helps your body to get rid of waste.
According to the Mayo Clinic, the average adult loses more than 10 cups of water daily, along with electrolytes, like potassium and calcium, simply by sweating, breathing and eliminating waste. You need to replace lost water to prevent dehydration, which is a major stressor to the body.
On these remaining summer days, and during exercise or illness, monitor fluid loss and pay close attention to symptoms that your body may not be receiving enough water. These symptoms may include dry mouth and skin, muscle weakness, headaches, digestive problems, joint discomfort, sleepiness, poor brain function, low blood pressure, irritability (and fussiness in children), sinus/allergy problems, breathing difficulties, and heart problems.
Consider the following tips for getting enough water and preventing dehydration:
- Consume plenty of fluids. One easy to remember guideline is to drink at least eight, 8-ounce glasses of water each day. By drinking about two liters of water a day along with a healthy diet, you will typically replace your lost fluids.
- Eat whole fruits and vegetables, such as strawberries, grapefruit, blueberries, green peas, spinach, and zucchini. They have high water and fiber content and are low in calories and more energy-dense. Cantaloupe and watermelon, two popular summertime fruits, are at least 90 percent water.
- Drink more water in hot or humid weather to help lower your body temperature and to replace what you lose through sweating. If dehydration occurs, get into a shady area, recline, and rehydrate.
- When exercising, you need more water, but use caution. Drink one to two cups of water before exercise, and more for endurance events, and replenish fluids regularly during activity. However, too much water can cause bloating and discomfort and potentially hyponatremia, a dangerous condition that can occur when your blood sodium becomes too low.
- If you are sick, drink extra fluids. Keep in mind that ginger ale and soda are high in sugar and contain too little sodium to replenish lost electrolytes.
Get immediate medical care if you develop severe signs of dehydration such as extreme thirst, no urination for eight hours, shriveled skin, dizziness and confusion. If you have a medical condition such as diabetes or are pregnant, check with your doctor about how much fluid you need.
Sources: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Mayo Clinic, National Oceanic Atmospheric Administration, LifeWork Strategies EAP, Washington and Adventist HealthCare Shady Grove Medical Centers.