Drink Water to Avoid Dehydration

Janis G. Hunter
Home & Garden Information Center

Outdoor temperatures and humidity levels have been extremely high in South Carolina during the month of August and are expected to continue into September. Dehydration is a health risk, especially for the very young and the very old. On average, the body’s total weight is 55-75% water, which must be replenished for it to work normally. Make sure that your body stays hydrated by following these guidelines:

  • Choose water as your primary beverage. Water and sports drinks are better choices than beverages containing carbonation, caffeine or alcohol. Caffeine can act as a diuretic, contributing to dehydration by promoting fluid loss through urination. Alcoholic beverages also have a diuretic effect on the body and should not be counted toward your daily fluid intake. Other smart beverage choices include low-fat milk, vegetable and fruit juices.
  • In hot and humid weather or when involved in an active sport that makes you sweat, drink plenty of water throughout the day, not just during the activity. The body will overheat without adequate fluid intake. To replace fluid lost through sweating, drink plenty of water and beneficial liquids before, during, and after physical activity. A good rule of thumb is to drink a cup of fluid every 15 minutes during and immediately after exercise.
  • On an average day, a healthy adult needs 8 to 12 cups of water to replace the amount lost through perspiration, breathing, urination and bowel movements. In general, one quart of water is needed daily for every 50 pounds of body weight. The exact amount of water needed depends on: age; gender; weight; health; level of physical activity; foods eaten; any medications taken; and the weather.
  • Drink a glass of water as soon as you get up each day, and enjoy water breaks instead of coffee or tea breaks during the day. Drink water with meals and snacks. Since 20% of your total fluid intake comes from foods, eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, which contain lots of water along with other nutrients.
  • Every morning, fill a 64-ounce to 96-ounce container with water. When you drink all the water in the container, you have met your daily water need of 8 to 12 cups.
  • Do not wait until you feel thirsty before drinking something. Sometimes the brain doesn’t get the thirst signal, and older adults often lose the ability to sense thirst.

Failing to drink enough water can lead to dehydration, a condition in which the body does not have enough water to carry on normal functions. Symptoms include: excessive thirst; fatigue; muscle weakness and cramps; headache; dizziness and lightheadedness; labored breathing; increased body temperature; dry mouth, lips and skin; nausea; no urination or a small amount of dark yellow urine; and constipation. Dehydration that results in losing more than 10% of your body weight causes extreme weakness and potential heat stroke, and a 20% loss of your body weight is life-threatening.

For more information, see HGIC 4151, Fluid Needs.

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