Sunday, December 23, 2012

Dehydration - not just a summer time concern

Dehydration can happen at any time, not just when it's hot outside. In fact, most cases of minor dehydration happen in the winter when we don't consume enough beverages to simply stay cool in the hot weather.

As a general rule, to figure out how much water intake you need per day, simply take your body weight and cut it in half. This is how many ounces fluid you need per day, 3/4 of which need to be pure water. (Ex. 150 lbs means 75 oz of fluid per day, of which 56 ounces need to be water. As for the other fluid, caffeinated beverages (energy drinks, coffee, soda) should not be included in your fluid total as they are diuretics and actually make you more dehydrated. Although teas do have caffeine, the amount is so low that they will not have a diuretic effect.

Try to take your fluids in a steady amount throughout the day to maintain proper fluid levels. However, you will want to stop or significantly tape fluid intake 2 hours or so before bed so that you don't wake in the middle of the night to go to the restroom.

How do you know if you're dehydrated? The signs below are taken from

Mild to moderate dehydration is likely to cause:
  • Dry, sticky mouth
  • Sleepiness or tiredness — children are likely to be less active than usual
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urine output — no wet diapers for three hours for infants and eight hours or more without urination for older children and teens
  • Few or no tears when crying
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Constipation
  • Dizziness or lightheadedness
Severe dehydration, a medical emergency, can cause:
  • Extreme thirst
  • Extreme fussiness or sleepiness in infants and children; irritability and confusion in adults
  • Very dry mouth, skin and mucous membranes
  • Lack of sweating
  • Little or no urination — any urine that is produced will be dark yellow or amber
  • Sunken eyes
  • Shriveled and dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn't "bounce back" when pinched into a fold
  • In infants, sunken fontanels — the soft spots on the top of a baby's head
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing
  • No tears when crying
  • Fever
  • In the most serious cases, delirium or unconsciousness 
Also remember that diarrhea, vomiting, excessive sweating and/or fever will cause you to lose fluids so additional water intake (above the recommended daily amount) is needed to maintain your hydration level. If you're not sure if you're well hydrated, look at your urine color. Ideally, your urine should be colorless or very light in color. Dark yellor or amber colored urine indicates that you need to take in more water.