We often associate dehydration with the scorching temperatures of summer, but dehydration is a common problem in winter, too: bone dry air and indoor heating sources can rob moisture from our bodies causing a whole host of problems.
We all know water is important for our bodies; after all, the human body is made up of 70% water, and it needs the proper amount of hydration plus electrolytes to function properly. Every day, we lose water through regular activities, such as sweating, and even breathing, no matter what the temperature, so it’s no wonder many of us aren’t getting the adequate amounts, especially older adults.
So how can you tell if you’re dehydrated and how much water do you really need to drink each day?
How Can I Tell If I’m Dehydrated?
There are a few easy self-tests to do to see if you’re dehydrated.
Skin Test – Pinch and lift the loose skin on the back of your hand with your thumb and index finger. Then let go. Does the skin fall back into place within a few seconds? If not, you might be dehydrated.
Fingertips – Check the skin on your fingertips: are they pruney before you even took that bath? You probably need to drink more water.
Check Your Urine – Look at your urine before flushing. Is it a pale yellow, dark yellow, or somewhere between? A light yellow color is in the normal range. The darker the color, the more likely it is that you are dehydrated. Frequency is important too. According to WebMD.com most people urinate between six and eight times a day. If you urinate less than six, you may be dehydrated. And check infants: If an infant has had a dry diaper three or more hours, she may be dehydrated.
Wrinkles, Loss of Elasticity – Does your skin show signs of premature aging? Drinking enough water daily can help slow the aging process.
Headaches – Dehydration headaches are common. According to Medical News Today, when the body is dehydrated, the brain can temporarily contract or shrink from fluid loss. This mechanism causes the brain to pull away from the skull, causing pain and resulting in a dehydration headache.
Constipation – Frequent constipation could indicate that you’re not drinking enough water.
Bad Breath – Dehydration can lead to lower saliva production. “If you’re not producing enough saliva, you can get bacterial overgrowth in the mouth, and one of the side effects of that is bad breath,” says John Higgins, MD, a professor of medicine at the University of Texas in Houston.
Cracked, Dry Lips – Dry winter weather and dehydration can leave your lips dry and cracked. Provided this is not due to any other underlying conditions, staying hydrated and a good moisturizing lip balm can alleviate these symptoms.
The Old Saying…
What about that old saying, “If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated”? Is there any truth to it? Yes! According to the Mayo Clinic, by the time your body is thirsty, you could already be dehydrated, having lost as much as 1 to 2 percent of your body’s water content. The key is to keep drinking and stay hydrated before you feel thirsty.
Easy Ways To Stay Hydrated
- Start your day with a glass of water. Place a glass on your nightstand when you go to bed and drink it as soon as you get up, even before you reach for that cup of java.
- Drink water! Don’t substitute coffee, alcohol, soft drinks, or any caffeinated beverage for water.
- Drink a cup of water between cups of coffee.
- Spread water drinking throughout your day.
- Drink water before and after exercising or taking a walk.
- Eat hydrating foods like cucumbers, celery, tomatoes, strawberries, broccoli, cauliflower, spinach, grapefruit, cantaloupe, baby carrots, and iceberg lettuce. An easy way to do this is to build a tossed salad with a combination of these foods.
- Anytime you’re sick and losing body fluids, through vomiting or diarrhea, dehydration can occur. Replacing loss of water and electrolytes is essential. You’ve heard it before: drink plenty of fluids!
The Real Answer To How Much Water You Should Be Drinking Daily
We’ve all heard that we need to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day. Is this true? Medical professionals recommend every person should try to drink one-third to one-half of their body weight in ounces per day.
For example, a person weighing 135 pounds should consume 67.5 ounces of water each day. That’s about 8.5 eight-ounce glasses of water a day. Need an easy trick to help you to remember to drink more water during the day? We’ve got one here.
So to stay happy and healthy, remember to stay hydrated, and drink up!
Deborah Tukua is a natural living, healthy lifestyle writer and author of 7 non-fiction books, including Naturally Sweet Blender Treats. She has been a writer for the Farmers' Almanac since 2004.