Hot weather is here: drink water to cool off, stay safe

Do not wait until you are thirsty to take a drink of water. Especially during the hot and humid days of summer, according to Pam Duitsman, nutrition and health education specialist with University of Missouri Extension.

“Keeping the body hydrated is essential no matter what we are doing outside,” said Duitsman. “Drinking fluids is crucial to staying healthy and supporting every system in your body. That demand increases in high temperatures.”

Average temperatures in southern and central Missouri hover around 90 degrees in July. Humidity percentages average in the mid to upper 80s.

When our bodies are stressed by heat, we can easily develop heat-related illnesses such as heat edema (swelling), heat rash, heat cramps, heat exhaustion, and most serious, heat stroke.

Hot and at risk

Elderly and very young individuals are at increased risk for heat stroke, as are those who are chronically ill, have diabetes, heart disease, or high blood pressure.

Pregnant women and those who are breastfeeding are also vulnerable.

Certain types of medications may also put an individual at risk for heat stroke.

Heat stroke is life threatening and can result in serious complications. Even minor dehydration can lead to headaches, weakness, low blood pressure, irritability, dizziness, and confusion.

“Do not wait until you are thirsty to take a drink. You may already be dehydrated by that time. Be proactive, and drink plenty of fluids before going out into the heat,” said Duitsman.

Duitsman recommends keeping water handy and drink it regularly throughout the day—especially while you are exercising or working outdoors—instead of waiting until you are done.

“Set a timer and stop every 15 minutes to take a drink. If you are overheating, find a way to cool your body down by going indoors, spraying yourself with a garden hose, or getting into a cool shower,” said Duitsman. “For most people, water is the best way to keep hydrated if you are active for one hour or less.”

Snacks and beverages

A cool snack can also help to hydrate and cool the body, as well as provide energy. Cold grapes, watermelon, or other seasonal fruits and vegetables are mostly water and can help hydrate the body in addition to drinking water.

“If you are active in the heat for 60 minutes or more, then a sports drink with electrolytes can be useful,” said Duitsman. “Just be cautious, because sports drinks are often high in sugars and calories. Try making a sports drink by diluting 100 percent fruit juice 1 to 1 with cold water.”

The Institute of Medicine suggests men drink about 13 cups of total beverages each day, and women, about 9 cups. More is needed during hot conditions or if you are physically active.

The recommendation for children four to eight years of age is five to six cups of water a day; and for teenagers, seven cups for girls and 10.5 cups for boys.

When children are outside during hot weather, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends five ounces of cool tap water every 20 minutes for a child weighing 85 pounds and nine ounces every 20 minutes for a teen weighing 132 pounds.

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More information

Duitsman suggests making hydration a habit. For example, carry a refillable water bottle with you. Keep a beverage on your desk and drink water throughout the day. Make the taste of water more inviting by keeping it icy cold, or adding in-season berries, cucumbers or a slice of lime or lemon. Start each day with a glass of water. Drink a cup of water before every meal.