Whether you’re exercising, forget to drink water, or are sweating a lot, you’re losing water. If you don't replenish the water you lose, you could become dehydrated.
Signs of dehydration
Before you start an intense rehydration process, you should first know the signs of dehydration. If you don’t get enough water, your body isn’t getting the fluid it needs to operate. Whether it is in your urine or from physical symptoms, your body will start telling you to drink more water.
Urine colors to worry about include:
- Dark yellow
Little to no urine is also a sign of dehydration.
Physical symptoms include:
- Dry mouth
- Overwhelming sleepiness
- Extreme thirst
- In children, you may notice no tears when crying
Some people are more at risk for dehydration. People who exercise intensely, or during hot weather are at risk. People with kidney stones or a bladder infection can become dehydrated easily. If you’re sick with a fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, you could lose fluids too quickly. If you are pregnant or breastfeeding you are at higher risk of dehydration. Older adults are also at a higher risk.
Ways to rehydrate
Water is the best way to hydrate your body, but it’s not the only option. There are other ways you can rehydrate.
Drink water first.
It’s important to drink water every day. A good goal to reach is six to eight 8-ounce glasses of water daily. However, this goal will change depending on how active you are, and other factors that may make you get dehydrated faster. In some cases, you may get enough water by drinking when you feel thirsty.
Eat water-rich fruits and vegetables.
There are fruits and vegetables you can eat with high water content. These foods will also have other nutrients.
20% of most people's total water intake comes from water-rich foods. This is a big portion taken outside other than water or other beverages.
Water-rich fruits include:
Water-rich vegetables include:
- Leafy greens
Stay inside if it’s too hot.
If it’s very hot outside, you should stay indoors. Avoid exposing yourself to the sun during peak sun ray exposure between 10 am and 2 pm. When planning events and activities outside, schedule them in the mornings or evenings.
If your home doesn’t have air conditioning, you can try public spaces like malls, movie theaters, recreational centers, or the public library.
Focus on fluid replacement.
If water is not available, sports drinks are good. They provide water and also can help make up for electrolytes and fluids lost. It is important to replace fluids after exercise to keep your body hydrated. When you perform moderate- to high-intensity exercises for an hour or longer you will need to drink enough liquid or water to make up for the fluid loss.
Drink before, during, and after a workout.
Whether you hike, play a sport, or ride your bike you should drink water or a sports drink before, during, and after. According to the American Council on Exercise, this is the amount of water you should drink:
- 17-20 ounces two to three hours before you exercise.
- 8 ounces 20-30 minutes before you exercise.
- 7-10 ounces every 10-20 minutes during exercise.
- 8 ounces no more than 30 minutes after exercise.
If you experience serious water loss, you might need more than just water and food. Water loss can create an electrolyte imbalance that can turn deadly. In these cases, you will need oral rehydration therapy.
You can also buy oral rehydration solutions for children over-the-counter if needed. This will be easier than making your own solution or going to the doctor.
When to see a doctor
If you experience dehydration and it doesn't go away with quick rehydration solutions, you need to see a doctor. Seek immediate medical attention. They’ll be able to give you intravenous (IV) fluids with salt at the hospital.
Dehydration can worsen quickly, so it’s best to try to solve the issue as soon as you notice a problem. When you see the signs of dehydration in yourself or your children, you should immediately start replacing electrolytes.
To avoid dehydration, drink water every day. Even when you don't feel thirsty, you should try to get a minimum amount of water in your system.
Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics: "Hydrate Right."
Frederick Health: "10 Tips for Staying Hydrated During the Summer Heat."
Nutrition Reviews: "Water, Hydration and Health."
Scripps: "6 Simple Ways to Stay Hydrated."
The Nutrition Source: "Water."
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