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The Prescott Daily Courier | Prescott, Arizona

home : features : features January 25, 2015

8/18/2013 6:00:00 AM
Hydration is the key to a safer and more enjoyable summer
Yavapai Regional Medical Center

As the mercury rises, there's nothing quite like water for beating the heat. Water is important to the body at all times, but especially in warmer weather.

When you work or exercise, your muscles generate heat. Your body needs to get rid of that heat to keep from burning up. The main way the body discards heat in warm weather is through perspiration, which cools the body tissues as it evaporates. However, sweating reduces the body's water level, and this loss of fluid has an effect on bodily functions.

In Arizona, where the heat index can push well above 100 degrees Fahrenheit for weeks at a time, dehydration can be a real concern. During the monsoon season, with the humidity high, our bodies can perspire even more. This can cause a loss of essential minerals, leading to heat exhaustion or even heat stroke.

A few summer hydration tips:

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends the following:

• Drink about 16 to 20 ounces of water two hours before any moderate-intensity summer exercise.

• Drink at least 8 ounces of water 10 or 15 minutes before going out in the heat.

• When exercising outdoors for less than 60 minutes at a time, drink another 3 to 8 ounces every 15 to 20 minutes.

• When exercising outdoors for more than 60 minutes at a time, drink 3 to 8 ounces of a sports beverage every 15 to 20 minutes.

Not just any liquid will do when it comes to preventing dehydration. Caffeinated beverages such as coffee, teas or colas do not provide optimal hydration. The same is true for alcohol. In fact, these fluids tend to pull water from the body and actually promote dehydration. Fruit juices may be too high in carbohydrates and too low in sodium.

If you're participating in an activity of low to moderate intensity, such as walking for less than an hour, water is all you need. For more strenuous activity, or if you plan on being out in the sun for more than a few hours, mineral-rich sports drinks can be even better for hydration. These replace not only fluid, but also chemicals like sodium and potassium. Perspiration can cause a deficiency of electrolytes, such as sodium and potassium, which can lead to muscle cramping.

One way to know if you're getting enough beneficial fluids is by checking the color of your urine. If it's the color of lemonade or lighter, you should be fine. If it is darker, you need more water. It can also be helpful to weigh yourself before and after a workout or outdoor labor. For every pound lighter you are after exercise, you've lost anywhere from 20 to 24 ounces of fluid. Those fluids need to be replaced.

If you suspect that someone is dehydrated, seek immediate medical attention. Some signs of dehydration are:

• General fatigue

• Loss of appetite or nausea

• Flushed skin

• Light-headedness

• Dark-colored urine

• Weakness and muscle cramps

The best way to beat dehydration is to drink before you get thirsty. If you wait until after you're thirsty, you're already dehydrated. So play it smart and keep cool with plenty of water. Adequate hydration will keep your summer activities safer and much more enjoyable.

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