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The Importance of H2O in the Heat

(As published on TheTownDish.com, June, 2012)

Summer is the perfect season for many outdoor activities such as playing a game of beach volleyball or tennis, taking a hike, going to the beach, or taking a swim. Summer is also known for hot, blistering heat and sticky, hair-ruining humidity. For these factors, during the hot summer months, it is especially important to remember to stay hydrated. Dehydration is the loss of water from the body. There are a few reasons why someone may become dehydrated, such as: decreased fluid intake, diarrhea, vomiting, excessive exercise and sweating.

So, you've probably read articles about how much water to drink each day. According to Dr. Michael Welsh of Unionville Family Medicine, an affiliate of The Chester County Hospital, "It is generally recommended that 6 to 8 glasses of water or other non-caffeinated beverages be consumed everyday."

However, there are a number of factors that can impact the amount of water that you need each day. It is important to be aware of fluid that babies, small children and the elderly consume. In these particular age groups, individuals are at a greater risk of dehydration because they are unable to compensate for fluid loss as easily as healthy adults. Children have to depend on their caregiver to provide them fluids when thirsty. Often times, when children are feeling ill, they refuse food and drink which also presents a problem.

Also sometimes the elderly have physical problems that can inhibit hydration. The following medical problems can also affect the amount of fluid a person consumes in a day: kidney disorders, heart failure, and liver disease. Dr. Welsh emphasizes that it is important to monitor individuals in these age groups for the following symptoms of dehydration. These symptoms include: dry mouth, headache, decreased urine output, dry skin, lightheadedness, thirst, low blood pressure, rapid heart beat, fever, no tears or sweat, and unconsciousness.

Water is so important to the human body because such a large percentage of the body is comprised of it, and a specific fluid level must be maintained to make sure it works properly. According to Dr. Welsh, "water regulates your body temperature, flushes wastes out of the body, protects organs and tissues and prevents constipation."

Overall, water is the best option for hydration. It's usually recommended over sports drinks, unless you are participating in a high endurance physical activity. For the average/casual exerciser that is not sweating profusely, water should suffice.

During these summer months, monitoring fluid intake is especially important. Talk to your family doctor about any changes being made to fluid intake, diet and exercise and be sure to contact them if you suspect dehydration.

Last Updated: 9/7/2012