You might think that you wouldn’t have to worry about staying hydrated in cold weather, but winter dehydration does happen. Hydration is important no matter what time of the year it might be. Whether you’re out in freezing weather or curled up by a warm fireplace this winter, you should always be mindful of your fluid intake so you can stay hydrated during the long winter months.
Here are some of the reasons why staying hydrated is just as important in the winter as it is when it’s warmer outside. You’ll also learn some of the signs of dehydration, and when you (or someone you know) might need to get medical help.
Why Is Dehydration So Serious?
There are a lot of reasons why you need to maintain proper hydration levels. Your body, of course, needs water to live. When water loss is greater than fluid intake, dehydration occurs. The risk of dehydration is serious no matter your age, but the very young and the elderly are particularly vulnerable.1
Being just a little dehydrated can lead to problems with your motor skills and even your mood. When you’re dehydrated, your blood becomes thicker and your kidneys retain water. You produce less urine as a result. If your blood becomes too thick, that can make your heart work harder than it should.2
Winter Dehydration: Yes You Can Get Dehydrated In The Cold Winter Months
Who wants to drink cold water on a winter day? Wouldn’t a nice hot chocolate be better to warm you up? You’ve got to drink water to stay hydrated, whether it’s the middle of summer or just a few days before Christmas. Just because you don’t sweat as much, or you might not have the urge to drink, that doesn’t mean you won’t experience winter dehydration.
Staying hydrated during the winter can be harder than you think. If you exercise outside, you might not feel the need to drink as much water. You might not sweat as much, either. But you’re still losing water from your body in other ways.
Do you know why you can see your breath on really cold days? That’s water vapor. The colder it is, the more vapor you lose. Just as you lose water through sweat, you lose it through the water vapor that comes out of your nose and mouth. You’re losing fluids either way – and risking dehydration as a result.3
First Things First: Drink Plenty Of Water And Other Fluids For Hydration
The best way to stay hydrated is to make sure you keep drinking water throughout the day. But if you would rather drink something else, coconut water and tea are also hydrating.
Just try to avoid drinking soda or other beverages that are filled with sugar. They typically contain a lot of calories and are not usually hydrating. Fruits and vegetables are not only healthy, but many of them also provide a good deal of water. Melons, citrus fruits, zucchini, and sweet peppers are just a few examples.4
There are a lot of factors that will go into determining how much fluid you need in order to remain hydrated. These include your physical activity levels, your age, and your gender. The amount of humidity in the air can even contribute to dehydration. Your doctor can tell you
how much fluid you need to consume in order to achieve a safe level of hydration.5
Sweating In Cold Weather Can Increase Dehydration Risk
If you like to run outside, or your job entails a lot of outside physical exertion, you’re going to sweat. You might not think you sweat a lot during cold weather, but you do – especially if you wear heavy clothing. It’s important that you wear the right amount of clothing for your activity level.
Researchers looked at how much U.S. Army soldiers sweat during cold weather, and how high their risk of dehydration may be. Even moderate activity in a uniform designed for frigid temperatures resulted in a substantial amount of sweat – to the point that the uniform was soaked.6
Signs You May Be Dehydrated
Your body will usually give you several signs that you’re starting to get dehydrated. You might have a dry mouth or dry skin, for example, and you might also be thirsty.7
If your fluid intake doesn’t keep up with your water loss, you won’t sweat as much. This is the body’s way to conserve water. It moves water from the cells to the bloodstream so your blood continues to flow properly. In addition to dry mouth and increased thirst, the body doesn’t produce as much urine.
In severe instances, cells can lose their ability to function and tissues can start to dry out. Thirst can actually lessen and blood pressure can fall significantly. This can lead to dizziness or fainting. As dehydration worsens, internal organs such as the liver and kidneys start to malfunction. Brain cells are especially susceptible to severe dehydration. This is the main reason many people who are seriously dehydrated exhibit confusion.8
Suffering From Dehydration? Know When To Talk With Your Doctor
If you or someone else is showing signs of potentially severe dehydration, get medical help as soon as you can. These signs include a lack of appetite, dry cough, urine that is darker than normal, and fatigue. Fast action could help reduce the chances of developing serious health problems.9
Stay Hydrated – Even When The Weather Is Cold
As you can see, the consequences of being dehydrated can be very serious. To combat your risk, even when it’s freezing outside, keep drinking lots of water or consuming other types of fluid.
You can become dehydrated no matter how cold it may be outside. Take the same precautions against dehydration that you would in warmer weather, and you should be just fine. If you do show some of the signs of severe dehydration, however, see a doctor immediately.