Why Can We Get Dehydrated When It’s Hot? Expert Advice on Staying Hydrated
As the summer heat wave continues to sweep across the country, it’s important to understand the risks and symptoms of dehydration. The human body is composed of 60-70 percent water, making it vital for proper bodily functions. Water is distributed throughout the body, including in the cells, tissues, and blood, and contains important components like electrolytes.
Dr. Dario Manfellotto, an internist at the Fatebenefratelli Isola Tiberina – Gemelli Isola di Roma hospital, explains that the delicate balance of body water can easily be disrupted, leading to dehydration. This balance is even more fragile in older individuals, as their sense of thirst is often attenuated. By the time they feel thirsty, they may already be in an initial state of dehydration.
To prevent dehydration, it is important to drink regularly, even before feeling thirsty. Dr. Manfellotto advises drinking tap water or mineral water, avoiding alcohol and sugary drinks that can give a false sense of thirst quenching.
Thirst is the first symptom of dehydration, but it usually appears when the body is already partially dehydrated. Other symptoms may include weakness, inability to carry out normal activities, confusion, headaches, and increased body temperature, which can lead to heat stroke. Dehydration can also cause a drop in blood pressure, especially when standing up.
If you experience any of these symptoms, it is essential to take immediate action to recover. Dr. Manfellotto suggests drinking small amounts of water, finding shelter in cool places, avoiding excessive sweating, resting, and refraining from physical exertion.
The amount of water one should drink depends on external temperature, but the general recommendation is to consume between one and two liters of water per day. A good rule of thumb is to drink a glass of water every hour, even if not feeling thirsty, to ensure at least a liter and a half of water is consumed throughout the day. Other liquids like tea, milk, and fruit juices can contribute to meeting the daily water intake requirement.
However, individuals with heart and/or kidney disease should be cautious and monitor their water intake. Excess water can lead to water retention, so it is important to check weight regularly. If weight increases by 1-2 kilos in a day, it is likely due to water retention rather than actual weight gain. Patients with chronic diseases or those taking diuretics should consult their doctor to adjust their medication and prevent dehydration.
When it comes to supplements, particularly minerals like potassium and magnesium, Dr. Manfellotto advises caution. Since supplements are not subject to as strict regulations as medications, the exact amounts of these minerals may not be known, and taking them in an uncontrolled manner can lead to accumulation. This can be risky for individuals with high blood pressure or heart and kidney disease, especially those prone to retaining potassium. It is best to consult a doctor before taking any supplements to ensure they are safe and appropriate for individual health conditions.
Staying hydrated during hot weather is crucial for overall well-being. By understanding the risks, symptoms, and best practices for hydration, individuals can take the necessary steps to keep their bodies properly hydrated and functioning optimally, even in the hottest temperatures.