by Megan Gallagher
It’s that time of year again when the temperature starts to drop, Northface, Patagonia, and Uggs are finally leaving the dusty closet shelves, and you are dreading leaving your warm bed for class in the morning. Along with winter comes a lot of obvious things such as snow, the Winter Olympics, and a warm glass of hot chocolate or apple cider, but there are a few hidden things that come also. One of the hidden things that come along with the cold weather is dehydration. Now you may thing that dehydration only occurs with hot summer days and exercise, but this is not the case.
Dehydration can occur at any time of the year and in any environment. Dehydration is defined as losing more fluid from your body than you are consuming. Therefore, the body does not have enough water to carry out normal bodily functions. Some symptoms of dehydration include thirst, fatigue, decreased urine output, headaches, and dizziness. Severe dehydration can cause confusion, dry skin, low blood pressure, rapid heart rate and breathing, and ultimately unconsciousness or delirium. This is why it is extremely important to monitor your fluid intake and make sure you are never dehydrated.
It is more common to think that dehydration occurs only during the summer or exercise because most people associate dehydration with heat and sweating. It is much more than that. Often during the winter, you become very cold and do not realize how thirsty you are. It is easier to keep track of your thirst when it’s warmer out and you can see yourself losing fluids from your skin via sweat. During the winter you may not realize you are sweating because of the severe coldness. This is especially true with winter sports, such as skiing or snowboarding. Also, during the winter the air we breathe in is drier. Because of this, the body has to work harder to humidify the air we are breathing in and warm it up. This causes the body to lose more fluid via respiration.
Also, winter is usually the season of final exams for most students. During December, most students are drinking a lot of tea, coffee, or soda to keep up their caffeine levels so they can stay up for hours to study for final exams. You may think you are hydrating yourself with these drinks because they are fluids, but that is not always the case. Caffeine can sometimes act as a diuretic, causing the body to lose fluids. While this alone will not cause you to be dehydrated, it can contribute to dehydration. It is important to make sure you are also drinking a lot of water with these beverages in order to stay hydrated.
There are many ways to test to see if you are dehydrated. The easiest methods are to look at skin turgor or to analyze the color of your urine. When testing skin turgor, you can grab a small piece of skin on the back of your hand or lower arm. Hold the skin up for a few seconds and then release it. If the skin snaps back rapidly, turgor is normal and you are hydrated. If the skin has decreased turgor and remains elevated for a few seconds, it is a sign you are dehydrated. Analyzing urine color is also very simple. If your urine is clear or an extremely pale yellow, you are hydrated. On the other hand, if your urine is not transparent and is a darker yellow, than you may be dehydrated.
It is important to monitor your fluid intake at all times. There are many sources of fluid besides water. These include fruit juices and other beverages, except those with an excessive amount of caffeine or that contain alcohol, and fluid rich foods such as fruits and vegetables. Whether you are participating in a sport, working out at the gym, or studying hard for finals this winter, make sure to stay hydrated so you can stay healthy!
Picture Source: http://naturalhydrationcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2012/09/NHC_Hydration_main.jpg