Winter: Dehydration Season.
Many people mistakenly believe that dehydration is exclusively a summer issue for obvious reasons such as the heat and extra sweating, but unfortunately, that’s not the case. Not only is dehydration caused by prolonged heat exposure in the warmer months, but dehydration in winter can also be caused by many wintertime illnesses and lifestyle habits that put your health at risk. Here’s how the body responds to dehydration during the winter, signs that indicate you have become dehydrated, and solutions for fuelling your body with the fluids it needs to avoid any symptoms.
Why People Become Dehydrated in Winter.
In the warmer months of the year, we often feel thirsty, which is a clear sign that the body is dehydrated and losing fluids. However, the body also loses fluids rapidly in the winter when the weather isn’t hot due to aspects such as wearing heavier, thicker clothes and when we do sweat, it evaporates quickly in the cold air.
In the cold, your blood vessels constrict to prevent blood flow to the extremities, drawing more warmth toward your core. This phenomenon tricks your body into thinking that it is more hydrated than it really is. Meanwhile, cold weather causes a disconnect between the brain and kidneys that leads to less water conservation and greater urine production. Ultimately, more urine excreted from the body means a greater risk of dehydration.
How the Body Responds to Winter Dehydration.
When your body is dehydrated in the winter, many different health issues can arise. Being dehydrated goes far beyond merely feeling thirsty and affects everything from your immune system to your energy levels and your body weight. Dehydration in the winter often leads to muscle cramps, muscle fatigue, and overall exhaustion (Maughan and Shirreffs, 2019). In some cases, it can even lead to loss of balance and coordination.
In addition, clinical studies have been carried out that indicate 37% of people mistake actual thirst for hunger, many of whom end up overeating as a result (PKD Foundation, 2018). This habit can lead to weight gain because a poorly hydrated body is less able to control appetite and break down fat to produce energy.
Factors That Lead to Winter Dehydration.
One of the most common factors that lead to winter dehydration is sweat. You may not feel like you’re sweating when it’s cold outside because the lower temperatures and dry air makes sweat evaporate much quicker than in the summer. Winter sweating is often the result of wearing many layers of clothing to conserve body heat.
In the winter, you also lose more fluids through urination as well as respiratory fluid loss. Whenever you can see your breath as you exhale in the cold, remember that your body is losing more fluids than usual through these vapours. Furthermore, there are many occasions that are celebrated during this season, especially involving alcohol which further dehydrates the body while you are consuming drinks and even the next day.
Lastly, humidity levels have been known to play a big part in dehydration. Typical humidity in your home is 40-70% but when you’re running the heater full-time during the winter months it is easy for the relative humidity in your home to drop below 20% (Bannister, 2021).
How to Know If You’re Dehydrated This Winter.
The signs and symptoms of dehydration are similar regardless of what season it is. Since you may not feel thirsty in the winter like you might in the summer, other common symptoms of dehydration to watch for include headaches, difficulty concentrating, fatigue, dry mouth, and dark yellow-coloured urine (Mulherin, 2016).
Winter Dehydration Solutions
Without enough fluids in your body, your organs, muscles, tissues, and joints cannot function well, nor give you the energy you need to go about your day. Drink plenty and remember that hot liquids are just as effective as cold liquids to hydrate your body, so try to drink more decaffeinated teas or other hot beverages throughout the day. Try to eat more water-based foods, such as soups, fruits, and vegetables, to also increase your daily fluid intake.
Additionally, always make a point to drink water before and during any exercise or high levels of physical activity whether it be outdoors or in the gym during the winter, even if you aren’t really sweating or feeling thirsty. Moreover, Hydralyte offers a wide variety of electrolyte fuelled hydration solutions to suit your lifestyle, ranging from tasty powder sticks to effervescent tablets that dissolve rapidly in water. All you need is 200ml of water to one portion of Hydralyte (one stick or pouch, or two tablets) that will rehydrate your body faster than any leading sports drink or even water alone.
So, even if you don’t necessarily feel thirsty in these cold winter months, it is so important to make the effort to stay well hydrated each and every day to avoid any health issues or malfunction of organs, and to be able to live your best life every single day.