NDSU Extension Service - Mercer County

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How to Stay Hydrated in Summer Heat

dehydration, excessive heat, health

Submitted by Dena Kemmet, Extension Agent/Family and Consumer Sciences 

In Mercer County our temperatures have soared to the high 90s several days this summer. The heat has many of us thinking about the lack of moisture we’ve received recently as well. There is much talk in the media about drought conditions and how farmers and ranchers can adapt and survive the current conditions. However, moisture for the land isn’t the only thing we should be concerned with.

Summer is a time to be outdoors and enjoy your favorite activities. Whether you are gardening, golfing, walking the dog or sitting on the deck reading a book, protecting yourself from dehydration due to excessive heat is important.

Anyone can become dehydrated, but older adults are at greater risk for several reasons. As you get older, your body has a smaller fluid reserve and a reduced capacity to conserve water. Also, your sense of thirst becomes less acute. Chronic conditions, such as diabetes and dementia, along with certain medications, can make these problems worse.

Water is required to moisten food (saliva), digest food (gastric secretions), transport nutrients to and from cells (blood), discard waste (urine) and dissipate heat (sweat). Water is a major component of the muscles and organs; about 60 percent of a male's body weight and 50 percent of a woman's body weight is water.

The average person could live without food for nearly a month, but we could only survive about one week without water—that’s how essential water is to human life.

In hot, humid weather, you increase the amount you sweat and the amount of fluid you lose. If you engaged in vigorous activities and do not replace fluids, you can become dehydrated. Dehydration can range in severity from mild heat cramps to heat exhaustion or potentially life-threatening heatstroke.

Here are a few helpful suggestions to include more fluids in your day and protect yourself from dehydration:

  • Drink a glass of water before you go outdoors or exercise, especially on a hot day.
  • Remember to have a glass of water if you need to take a pill.
  • Keep a water bottle or glass handy so you can sip on it throughout the day.
  • Consider ideas other than water, such as soup, stew, broth, Jell-O, fruit juice, smoothies, sports drinks, grapes or watermelon as an afternoon snack.

Don’t wait until you notice symptoms of dehydration to take action. Actively prevent dehydration by drinking plenty of water.

For more information on the signs and symptoms of dehydration, visit the Mayo Clinic website at www.mayoclinic.org.

The North Dakota State University Extension Service has resources on its Aging Well website (www.ag.ndsu.edu/aging) to help you stay healthy. You also can contact your local county office of the Extension Service for more information.

Source: Jane Strommen, NDSU Extension gerontology specialist

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