Importance of Hydration During Summer Months

Woman drinking a bottle of water

Stay Hydrated for Your Health

Drinking enough water daily is important for your overall health. Proper water intake helps your body filter and eliminate waste and toxins through urination, perspiration and bowel movements; protects your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues; regulates your body temperature; and lubricates and cushions your joints. Drinking plenty of water also replenishes your body’s fluid levels, especially during warm, humid summer months.  Plain drinking water has 0 calories, making it an ideal beverage choice that can also help you manage body weight and reduce calorie intake, especially if it is substituted for calorie-laden drinks like sugared sodas.

Drinking plenty of water daily can also prevent dehydration, a condition that can cause unclear thinking, mood changes, overheating, constipation and kidney stones. Dehydration can be especially harmful to specific populations, including pregnant women, babies plus young children and senior adults.

Now that summer has arrived, your Capital Women’s Care women’s health experts want to share important information about the symptoms and health effects dehydration has upon these populations, its complications and how to prevent it. Plus, we offer you helpful tips on how you and your family can stay hydrated during the hot, humid months of summer.

What is Dehydration?

According to the Mayo Clinic, dehydration occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don't replace lost fluids, your body becomes dehydrated.

In addition to the above groups at greater risk of dehydration, those having unmanaged or known diabetes (including gestational diabetes), kidney disease or those taking certain medications which act as diuretics are also susceptible to dehydration risk. People who vigorously exercise or labor outdoors in hot weather are also prone.

You can monitor urine output to determine your hydration level. Those who are properly hydrated have clear to pale yellow colored urine. Dehydration is likely indicated through urine output that is bright yellow to dark brown in color.

To prevent dehydration, drink plenty of water and eat foods high in water content like fresh fruits and vegetables. Monitoring, recognizing and quenching your thirst are adequate daily guidelines for most healthy people.

Dehydration and Pregnancy

Dehydration during pregnancy is a serious issue; it’s a risk to you and your baby’s health. Dehydration can usually happen in pregnant women when dietary habits change due to nausea, morning sickness, or diarrhea plus water retention and swelling that often occurs during latter pregnancy stages.

Pregnancy requires a woman’s body to use much more water. Dehydration can impact placenta development and amniotic fluid levels, which may cause problems during later pregnancy. During pregnancy, a woman’s blood volume increases 1.5 times. Without enough liquid intake, low blood pressure could develop. Additionally, many vitamins are water soluble, meaning they require an increased amount of fluid for your body to properly absorb them during pregnancy to nourish you and your baby. Proper fluid intake also helps you eliminate waste and toxins created by both you and your baby throughout pregnancy. Finally, decreased water intake can impact your body’s ability to produce important breast milk once your baby arrives.

Pregnant women who are dehydrated may have any of these symptoms:

  • feeling extremely thirsty
  • sleepiness or moodiness
  • headache
  • dry and brittle lips
  • irritability and confusion
  • infrequent urination
  • passing dark or brown urine
  • sunken eyes
  • shriveled skin
  • fast heartbeat
  • low blood pressure
  • and/or contractions.

It's important to stay naturally hydrated throughout your pregnancy. If you find it hard to keep water down or exhibit signs of minor dehydration, call and schedule a visit with your local Capital Women’s Care practitioner.

If you notice signs of severe dehydration, go to the emergency room immediately. Being overly cautious is better than risking harmful complications that could potentially threaten both you and your baby’s health.

Dehydration in Babies and Children

Babies and children are prone to dehydration due to their susceptibility to contracting illnesses that include either vomiting, diarrhea and/or fever as well as not drinking enough water or fluids. Because babies and children are smaller, dehydration can happen rapidly and progress quicker. It’s important to watch for these signs if your baby or child experiences illnesses that include vomiting, diarrhea and/or fever:

  • dry tongue and lips
  • tearless crying
  • having fewer than 6 wet diapers daily (for infants), and no wet diapers or urination for 8 hours (in toddlers)
  • sunken fontanelle (soft spot) on infant's head
  • crankiness
  • sunken eyes
  • dry, wrinkled skin
  • deep, rapid breathing
  • and/or cool, blotchy hands and feet.

You can help your child by doing the following:

  • Carefully follow the doctor's feeding instructions.
  • Don’t give children under 2 years of age over-the-counter medicine for diarrhea unless instructed by your doctor.
  • Encourage your child to drink unsweetened fluids, as sugary sodas, juices and flavored gelatin can irritate diarrhea.
  • Continue to breastfeed infants normally.
  • Electrolyte solutions may be helpful when given as recommended by the doctor.
  • Slowly increase the amount of fluid and food you give your child.
  • Give your child acetaminophen for fever. Don’t give your child aspirin.
  • Allow your child plenty of rest.
  • Watch for dehydration signs that get worse or return.

You should call your child’s doctor immediately if your child:

  • has any signs of dehydration
  • has increased vomiting or diarrhea
  • has no wet diapers or urination within 8 hours
  • or is lethargic (sleeping more and less playful.)

Complications from dehydration in babies and children include heat injury, urinary and kidney problems, seizures and low blood volume (hypovolemic) shock. If left untreated, dehydration can cause seizures, brain damage and even death.

If your child is very sleepy or isn’t responsive, you need to get your child to the emergency room immediately for prompt medical treatment.

Dehydration and the Elderly

Staying hydrated is particularly important as you age. An older adult with dehydration may be at higher risk for:

  • constipation
  • electrolyte imbalances
  • kidney problems
  • and loss of balance.

Seniors are prone to dehydration as the body’s water stores decrease as we age, meaning there’s a decline in total body fluid. Those who are elderly also have a lowered thirst response, a normal condition of the aging process. They also experience decreased kidney function and are more likely to suffer chronic health conditions requiring medications that may increase water loss through urination.

Older adults who experience heat exposure; mobility issues; illness accompanied by vomiting, diarrhea and/or fever; underlying health conditions like diabetes or kidney disease; or medications that can cause increased urination, including diuretics and certain blood pressure medications face greater dehydration risk.

Some common signs and symptoms of dehydration in seniors include:

  • dry mouth
  • tiredness or fatigue
  • sunken eyes
  • decreased urination
  • darker colored urine
  • muscle cramping
  • and dizziness or lightheadedness.

More serious dehydration symptoms require immediate medical attention, including:

  • a rapid heart rate
  • trouble with movement or walking
  • confusion or disorientation
  • fainting
  • and diarrhea or vomiting lasting longer than 24 hours.

If dehydration isn’t treated, it can lead to serious complications for seniors, including:

  • urinary and kidney problems, including urinary tract infections, kidney stones and even kidney failure
  • seizures due to low potassium and sodium levels
  • heat exhaustion or heatstroke
  • and hypovolemic shock, a life-threatening complication that causes a drop in blood pressure and oxygen levels due to low blood volume.

Recognizing the symptoms of dehydration is important so you can work to replace lost fluids. Look out for symptoms like dry mouth, fatigue, dark-colored urine and lightheadedness.

You can work to prevent dehydration by making sure you regularly take in fluids throughout the day. This can include water, juices, broths, or foods with high water content.

If you’re unsure about your hydration needs, talk to your doctor to find out how much water you should be drinking each day.

Tips to Maintain Hydration

Staying hydrated is easy with these helpful tips:

  • Drink water throughout the day. Other beverages that may also help with hydration include milk, flavored sparkling water and fruit juices low in sugar. Drink caffeinated beverages like coffee and tea sparingly, as they can have diuretic effects.

  • Make sure to take along enough water for the entire family when traveling or going on any outdoor adventures. Use a cooler to store freshly filled water bottles.

  • Have babies and young children enjoy shaded areas and easy access to water-laden refreshments if playing outdoors. Avoid direct sunlight and prolonged outdoor playtimes when heat peaks between noon and 3 p.m.

  • Set a timer on your watch or phone to remind you to grab a drink every few minutes throughout the day.

  • Monitor yourself and your kids for dehydration symptoms, especially if outside in hot, humid weather. Encourage a drink break to avoid dehydration during outdoor activities.

  • Be mindful of your thirst. If you find you have a dry or sticky mouth, drink some water to stay hydrated.

  • Place water within easy to reach areas and have better access to your bathroom if you or a family member has mobility issues.

  • If it’s hard to drink too much liquid all at once, take small sips every few minutes.

  • Include foods in your diet that have higher water content, including watermelon, cucumber, celery, strawberries and low sodium broths or soups.

  • If you don’t find plain water appealing, add a slice or squeeze of lemon, lime or orange to add flavor.

  • Men and women who aren’t pregnant should limit alcohol intake if outdoors in hot, humid temperatures; instead, emphasize drinking plenty of water to stay hydrated.

  • Prioritize drinking more water if you’re going to be out in hot or humid conditions for a prolonged time, or if you’re exercising or doing yardwork or gardening.

  • If you’re ill with symptoms like fever, vomiting, or diarrhea, make sure to drink more fluids than usual.

  • If you have an underlying health condition, speak with your doctor about your specific fluid and hydration needs.

Your Capital Women’s Care team of knowledgeable health professionals is here to answer your questions and address your concerns regarding maintaining adequate hydration or any women’s health issue. We prioritize you and your family’s health through our commitment to providing you with comprehensive, personalized care and treatments so you enjoy a long quality life.

Sources:

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/dehydration/symptoms-caus...
https://www.cdc.gov/nutrition/data-statistics/plain-water-the-healthier-...
https://www.everydayhealth.com/dehydration/the-truth-about-hydration-myt...
https://www.dripdrop.com/blog/health-wellness/6-dehydration-facts-may-su...
https://kidshealth.org/en/parents/dehydration.html
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/articles/8276-dehydration-and-your...
https://www.healthline.com/health/symptoms-of-dehydration-in-elderly
https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2625510/
https://www.healthline.com/health/pregnancy/dehydration
https://americanpregnancy.org/womens-health/dehydration-pregnancy/
https://momlovesbest.com/dehydration-during-pregnancy
https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/treatments/9013-dehydration

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