Summer’s here – and we’ve been having some sunshine, haven’t we? Hot weather carries its own risks, as we all know. But for most of us, our bodies naturally balance the quantity of fluid we lose and the amount we take in, so there’s no need to obsess about consuming a ‘standard’ 6-8 glasses of water a day (that figure has no basis in scientific research).
However, hot weather does make our cooling system work harder – so we sweat more and lose more moisture; and as we age, we become less aware of thirst. Dehydration in the elderly and the very young can creep up and has many ill-effects. It can worsen pain in your joints, for example, because the ‘cushion’ of cartilage is made up of 70-80% water.
If you’re carrying on or starting exercise routines (and summer’s a great time to try something new), be sure to drink well – fill up before exercise and drink an electrolyte-rich ‘sports drink’ if you’re active for over an hour in the sun.
Read on for our top tips on how to enjoy a healthy, hydrated summer.
Signs of Dehydration
Hot weather makes us lose water rapidly via sweat and evaporation through our skin and lungs. We take in water from all foods as well as all drinks and we also have a perfectly adequate method of detecting dehydration – thirst. But did you know that by the time you feel thirsty, you’re already mildly dehydrated? After that, headache, dizziness and fatigue will come on – and losing even 1.5% of your body’s water causes these symptoms. Severe dehydration is life-threatening, especially in the very young or the elderly. In hot weather, if you or someone with you develops a raised heart rate, red-hot skin, nausea, muscle cramps and swollen feet, seek medical attention right away.
How To Stay Hydrated
- Carry a water bottle and drink regularly if you feel thirsty.
- It doesn’t have to be plain water: add a slice of lemon, cucumber, mint or lime for zing.
- Caffeinated drinks make you pee (diuretic effect) and so can make you more dehydrated, but low-sugar squash, milk, mild tea or fruit teas are great sources of fluid.
- Don’t drink alcohol if you’re going to be stuck in the sun, as it too is a diuretic – it’ll just make you more thirsty.
- If you’re elderly yourself, or caring for an elderly person, regular drinks are a must. Ageing tends to make us less aware of thirst or of our fluid intake. Keep a track of what you drink, take medication with a full glass of water and enjoy plenty of mild cups of tea and other drinks.
- Young children need to be monitored too. They’re less aware of what the symptoms of thirst mean or may not be able to tell you what they feel. Tempt them with low-sugar ice lollies and squashes, milky drinks and summery fruits like watermelon.
- Eat more fruit and veg generally – great sources of water as well as high in fibre and nutrients. We actually take longer to digest food when it’s hot, so light salads help to keep you cool as well as hydrated.
We hope you enjoy the summer weather. Don’t forget to book in for a check up here at Sundial.