Staying Hydrated During the Winter

The season of layers has arrived! Not only are we wearing more clothes this time of year, we also are doubling up on lotion, moisturizers, and chapstick. Staying hydrated during the winter months is as important as during the summer.

The colder temperatures and those extra layers can easily disguise dehydration.

When dressed in heavier clothing, it’s harder to tell how much you’re sweating and how much moisture you’re losing. Humans lose one pint of water a day just from breathing. This amount goes up during the winter because our body loses heat and moisture more easily. Even a wintertime favorite – the electric blanket – is very dehydrating to the body.

We don’t feel as thirsty this time of year. It’s easy to want to grab something cool and refreshing when it’s 90 degrees out, but when we’re exposed to the cold we don’t feel as thirsty, so we tend to drink less. The hormone that signals our thirst reacts differently when exposed to cold weather. Because we don’t feel thirsty, it becomes even more important to consciously stay hydrated.

Drink often and before you’re thirsty in the winter.

During cold weather, you should take in 3–6 quarts of fluid per day, especially when exercising. The air you breathe is drier in cold weather and your lungs have to work harder. The harder your body works, the more you need to drink. Get plenty of electrolytes and drink more than plain water. Drinking too much plain water can cause hyponatremia (low sodium levels in your blood), which can lead to death or severe brain damage.

Energy drinks and alcohol can dehydrate you. Energy drinks can have laxative effects and alcohol can reduce your body’s ability to retain heat. Water and sports drinks are the best fluids to help you stay hydrated, even in cold weather.

How can you tell if you’re getting enough hydration?

By checking the color and amount of your urine. A light yellow urine color is ideal and usually means you’re getting plenty of hydration. A dark urine in smaller amounts than usual indicates dehydration.

So, while dry skin, chapped lips, headaches, and dry coughs are all common this time of year, by applying these tips mentioned above, you can be proactive and keep yourself adequately hydrated all winter long.

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