Staying Hydrated

Created by: Hali Obray, Dietetic Intern

 As the weather continues to get hotter, staying hydrated is even more important to prevent dehydration. But how much water do you need? According to the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine, men need about 15.5 cups of fluids and women need about 11.5 cups of fluids each day. This doesn’t mean you need to drink all 15.5 or 11.5 cups, though, because about 20% of fluid intake actually comes from food. Your body may need more or less fluids depending on the following: how often you exercise and the exercise intensity, environment and season, your health (if you have diarrhea, for instance, you need to drink more water to counteract the water loss), body size and gender (larger people tend to sweat more and men tend to sweat more than women), and whether you are pregnant or breastfeeding. 

How do you know when you are drinking enough and when you should be concerned about increasing your fluid amount? If you rarely feel thirsty and/or your urine is light yellow or colorless, you are probably drinking enough. Dehydration can be mild, such as not drinking enough during exercise, but can become severe and may require hospitalization in some cases. Symptoms of mild dehydration include: thirst, dry mouth, urinating less frequently, dark colored urine, feeling tired, and dizziness. Symptoms of severe dehydration that requires medical attention include: confusion, fainting, rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, and shock.

Treating dehydration involves replacing fluids and electrolytes that were lost. For mild cases, drinking a lot of water is the solution. If you lose electrolytes, such as when exercising for an hour or longer, a sports drink can help. Severe dehydration may be treated in the hospital with intravenous (IV) fluids with salt. The best way to avoid dehydration is to make sure you are drinking enough fluids throughout the day. Water is the best bet as it is a cheap and easily-accessible fluid. Drinks like milk, tea, and juice are made up of mostly water and can contribute to your fluid intake, along with many fruits and vegetables.

Adapted from eatright.org, mayoclinic.org, and meadlineplus.gov 

Image: urbanmilwaukee.com 

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