Why staying hydrated during cold weather is just as important during hot weather 

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Why staying hydrated during cold weather is just as important during hot weather 

The warm summer months are behind us and now that temperatures are taking a dip don’t let your water intake do the same.  You may not feel yourself breaking out in a sweat like you do during warm weather, but even during winter drinking a sufficient amount of water matters. Every day, no matter what the thermometer reads, we constantly lose water through our urine, feces, sweat, skin and lungs. Because we do not make or store water, it must be replaced daily. Most of us could go for weeks without eating food but would last only a few days without water.   

Why fluid intakes still matters during cold weather

Our body is made up of about two-thirds water and no matter what time of year it is, we still need a sufficient supply of it to prevent dehydration.

Surprisingly, exposure to cold can reduce the body’s thirst sensation by up to 40 percent.  This makes it even more vital to be aware of your hydration status during cold weather.  An unfortunate example of this happened in 2016 when British explorer Henry Worsley died crossing Antarctica. Unexpectedly, one of his noted causes of death was dehydration. Why would dehydration become such a vital factor in frigid temperatures?  Losing excessive amounts of body fluid is not usually a hazard associated with cold weather. But the hard reality is the season of winter can drain the body of essential fluids for several reasons:

·      In winter, we tend to go for longer periods without water, not realizing that breathing cold and dry air causes the body to lose significant amounts of fluid.

·      When we are cold, our blood vessels constrict to prevent blood from flowing freely to the extremities like our fingers and toes. The body is essentially trying to keep the core of our body warm by redirecting more blood to that area.  Since you don’t feel very thirsty, you are drinking less water even though you still lose fluid through perspiration, urination, and sweat.

·      When we perspire in cold weather, the sweat turns into vapor and isn’t directly on our skin, so there is not the excessive perspiration that acts as a visual cue for us to drink.

·      Because we don’t feel thirst as acutely as well as in summer, we are less likely to keep a bottle of water handy during cold-weather months.

·      We tend to bundle up during colder months to conserve body heat – long underwear, long sleeve shirts, hooded sweatshirts, and heavy coats which make our bodies work about 10-40 percent harder because of added weight.  This leads to increased perspiration and sweat resulting in more fluid loss.

How to maintain hydration during cold weather

To avoid any possibility of dehydration, here are some tips you can use during the fall and winter to make sure you’re meeting your water intake:

·      Drink adequate fluids including water

It goes without saying that drinking water during cold months is a must.  You may not notice it but you still sweat and perspire even on a cold day.  There is always the daily loss of water through urination – if adequately hydrated your urine should be very pale.  If it is dark, this indicates you are dehydrated and you should drink more water.

Water consumption guidelines vary from person to person depending on age, activity level, weight, and gender.  Here are water intake guidelines for both men and women:

If you are sedentary – drink between 8-12 cups of water daily

If you exercise – drink between 8-14 cups of water daily

·      Consume foods with a high water content

 Our food choices make a difference to keeping ourselves hydrated.  Certain foods have a high water content and can be counted towards your total daily fluid intake.  Consume at least 5 servings of fruits and vegetables each day to help contribute to your water needs. Here are a few examples of produce that can rehydrate your body:

·      All berries

·      Watermelon

·      Apples

·      Grapes

·      Pears

·      Oranges

·      Celery

·      Cucumbers

·      Tomatoes

·      Grapefruit

·      Broccoli

·      Take advantage of warm beverages and soups

On a cold night (or day), drinking warm beverages of caffeine-free tea or coffee, or cocoa can be a fun and delicious way keeping yourself hydrated.  Making a batch of soup is another great way to obtain adequate fluids - if it’s vegetable, chicken noodle or minestrone, they will also provide important nutrients from their healthy ingredients.