Summer safety: How to stay hydrated as heat, humidity increase

Summer is here, which means increasingly high temperatures and humidity. While the heat may allow for more time outdoors, including outside exercise, travel, and other summer activities, it can also increase your risk for dehydration and related illnesses.

Katherine Mellen, PhD, RD, CCSD

Katherine Mellen, PhD, RD, CCSD, associate professor of instruction in the UI Department of Health and Human Physiology, makes the following recommendations to avoid excessive dehydration, heat stroke, and other heat-related illnesses, while still enjoying the summer weather.

1. Adequately hydrate before going outdoors

To prevent, rather than react to, excessive dehydration, make sure you’re hydrated before going outside. This is a 24-hour long preparation process that involves consuming fluids the entire day prior to when you’ll be outside for an extended period of time.

Just because you start your time outside adequately hydrated, however, does not mean you are off the hook. You should continue to take in fluids during time spent outdoors. If you are outside and find yourself without fluids, go inside, cool down, and work to replenish fluids for another 24 hours to be adequately hydrated.

2. Listen to your body

Your body has built-in mechanisms that tell you when you are dehydrated. To keep dehydration from progressing, you should respond to these signals. When you feel thirsty, drink fluids. If your body is struggling to adjust to the heat and losing more fluids when exercising, then adjust when and how you work out accordingly. For example, exercise at cooler times of day, and not as intensely, to lose less fluids.

3. Pair fluids with sodium

Sodium is especially effective for rehydration. If you feel dehydrated, pair the fluids you consume with a salty snack or drink to increase hydration. In addition to water, you can also hydrate by drinking beverages infused with electrolytes, which are effective when exercising.

4. Track your progress

The easiest way to measure how hydrated you are is by examining the color of your urine. If your urine is a pale yellow or straw color, that indicates adequate hydration. If it becomes darker, however, it may indicate dehydration and a need for you to replenish fluids.

5. Identify dehydration in yourself and others

Learn how to recognize the signs of excessive dehydration and heat-related illness in yourself and others, and, when to seek treatment. This is especially important after you exercise or spend an extended period of time outside. Symptoms may include dizziness, rapid heartbeat, dry skin, extreme fatigue, or a lack of mental focus.

For more information on dehydration, heat-related illnesses, and how to prevent them, visit here.