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Dehydration Symptoms: How to Stay Hydrated as the Weather Gets Cooler

Dehydration affects everyone differently, but there are some universal symptoms you can watch out for to ensure you’re staying adequately hydrated. Whether you’re outdoors in the hot summer sun or holed up inside during the colder months, here are dehydration symptoms to watch out for and what to do about them.


Why do we need to stay hydrated?

Typically, an adult's body is about 55-60% water. Water is vital for our bodies to function, it helps to regulate our temperature, protects the spine, joints, and other delicate tissue, and helps to eliminate waste. Staying well hydrated also promotes healthy skin, it supports wound healing and can help to diminish wrinkles.
The signs of dehydration can vary from person to person but typically include: a dry mouth and thirst, light-headedness, confusion, or headaches, feeling dizzy or (extremely) tired, nausea or loss of appetite, and lack of sweating (leading to an inability to cool down). One of the more obvious signs to look out for is dark-coloured urine
You’ve probably heard the suggestion to drink 8 glasses of water per day, it's always good to have a target to work towards, but the amount of water you need to drink will depend on a few different factors. Have you exercised that day? Was it hot? Was it humid? Have you been unwell?

What can cause dehydration?

Dehydration is caused by not drinking enough water. It’s as simple as that! But there are many different reasons this might happen.
  • Illness can quickly lead to dehydration, especially if symptoms include fever, vomiting, or diarrhoea.
  • No access to water for long periods (for example when travelling, hiking, or camping).
  • Exertive physical activity and prolonged exposure to heat (excessive sweating).
  • High humidity and heat can cause your body to sweat, any time you sweat your body loses water and electrolytes, which can lead to dehydration.
  • The situation is different when there is low humidity. Let's take a long flight as an example, the humidity in the airplane cabin is usually below 20% - which is less than half of what we’re used to in the UK. It’s easy to become dehydrated on a plane as drinks are limited (and often alcoholic, but we’ll get to that later).

How can we avoid getting dehydrated?

It’s good to keep a close eye on how much water you’re drinking during periods of hot weather, as you’ll be at a higher risk of suffering heatstroke or dehydration. Using a water bottle with indicators for how much you’ve drunk can help as a visual reminder, or try using an app.
But it doesn’t have to be just plain water, herbal teas and non-caffeinated drinks can also help keep you hydrated.
You can also eat your water! Drinks typically account for about 80% of your fluid intake each day, while food makes up the rest. Many fruits and vegetables - like cucumber, tomatoes, watermelon, spinach, and celery - contain a lot of water along with beneficial vitamins and minerals and fibre.
In the wintertime, soft fruits and some vegetables can be harder to come by. There are plenty of seasonal fruits and veggies that are high in water too! Courgettes, mushrooms, cauliflower, apples, pears, and cabbage all have high water content too.
There are advantages to incorporating seasonal produce into your diet too. It has probably come from much closer to home, is fresher, and is still packed with nutrients (which can depreciate over time).
Electrolytes contain nutrients that are lost through sweating to support healthy hydration and fluid balance. In addition, it also supports physical performance, cellular maintenance, and energy production. Electrolyte supplements could be a huge help if you are at risk of dehydration! If you are exercising, sweating excessively, or ill (vomiting or diarrhoea) try to make sure you are drinking plenty of water and including electrolytes.
Taking a probiotic can help to support immune function and absorption of nutrients - including water. Probiotics may also help recovery from dehydrating illnesses such as diarrhoea
Finally, think about the effect of alcohol. Alcohol is a diuretic, meaning it increases urination and therefore water elimination. Go easy on the alcohol, especially if it’s hot or humid, and try to drink some plain water in between your alcoholic drinks.

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