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Sun and Fun and Dehydration

In many parts of the country, the summer months are filled with outdoor fun.  Swimming pools, BBQs, trips to the beach, picnics, and more.

But for those of us in South Florida year-round, the summer months bring extreme heat and humidity.  For vulnerable populations, especially the elderly, this extreme heat can cause troublesome or even dangerous dehydration.

Why is dehydration dangerous?  The human body is composed mostly of water.  When fluid and electrolyte imbalances occur, our bodies don’t function optimally, and if imbalances are not quickly corrected, decreased kidney function, heart arrhythmias, coagulation issues, and a host of other problems arise.

Many people often ask, “how do I know if I’m dehydrated?”  Dehydration can come in lots of forms, and the warning signs can be mild or severe.  Things like fatigue, headaches and dryness in the mouth, eyes, and of the skin are all warning signs.  Thirst is an obvious sign of dehydration as well.

The easiest way to monitor yourself for dehydration is to routinely check the color of your urine after using the rest room.  If you are properly hydrated, your urine should be pale yellow or clear.

What to drink?  With an abundance of choices in today’s market, this is a surprisingly complicated question.  The simple, most basic answer, is water.  Regularly drinking clean drinking water, in any form, is the simplest way to remain hydrated.  If plain water doesn’t appeal, drink mixes like Crystal Light can be a great way to add flavor without adding calories.

Most men should drink between 3.5-4 liters of fluid per day, and most women between 2.5-3 liters per day.  This figure is an average and does vary based on body weight and composition and level of activity.  Some people are also under doctor’s orders for fluid intake restrictions for certain medical conditions.

Other liquids “count” towards your daily fluid intake goal, though caffeine can have a dehydrating effect, so caffeinated beverages like coffee and soda don’t fit the bill.  Also, those with diabetes or other sugar restrictions must be wary of juices and sports drinks, as they are often leaden with sugar or sugar substitutes, all of which can affect blood sugar.

The long and short of it:  stay safe.  Stay cool.  And drink lots of good old-fashioned water.