Follow a doctor’s advice in summertime to avoid dehydration

With summertime temperatures on the rise in California, it’s important to stay hydrated. According to the National Hydration Council, dehydration is defined as “a lack of water in the body resulting from inadequate intake of fluids or excessive loss.”

Hydration is particularly important for children, as they have higher water requirements in relation to their body weight than adults do. Kids don’t always recognize the early stages of thirst, which can make them particularly vulnerable to becoming dehydrated, especially during times that can drive up their body fluid losses, like when they are playing sports or during warm weather.

During the hot weather months, it can be challenging to maintain outdoor exercise regimens or playing in the great outdoors. To help maximize open-air fun, here are some safety tips for both adults and children for staying cool when exercising and playing in the summer heat:

  • Exercise in the early morning or late evening. The temperature is coolest at this time. Avoid exercising midday when it’s the hottest part of the day.
    Drink up. Do not wait until you are thirsty to start hydrating. Drink two to four glasses of water each hour. If you are on diuretics, or a low-salt or fluid-restricted diet, talk to your doctor first about your specific fluid needs.
  • Wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing. Consider dressing in clothes made with moisture-wicking fabric.
  • Protect yourself from the sun. Wear a hat, sunglasses and sunscreen with an SPF rating of 15 or higher. Try to exercise in the shade. Play tennis on a court shaded by trees or take a walk in a wooded park.
  • Rest early and often. Take breaks in shady areas.
  • Gradually get used to the heat. It takes seven to 10 days for your body to adapt to the change in temperature. Start by exercising for a short time at a low intensity. Save long, hard workouts until you are acclimated to the summer air.
  • Mind the weather. Do not exercise on the hottest days. Keep an eye on the heat index. The heat index is a calculation of the temperature and humidity. It measures “how hot it really feels” outside:
    • Heat index 80 to 90 degrees: fatigue during exercise is possible. Heat exhaustion is a possibility even at these temperatures.
    • Heat index of 90 to 105 degrees: heat cramps and heat exhaustion or heat stroke are possible.
    • Heat index of 105 or higher: heat exhaustion is likely and heat stroke is possible. Be cautious when the heat index gets above 80 degrees. Consider working out indoors. Walk around a shopping mall or do a workout DVD in your air-conditioned home.
  • Stop if you don’t feel well: If you have any of the warning signs of heat-related illness, such as dizziness, headache or nausea, stop your workout right away.

Dehydration is one of those things many people don’t think about and something that can sneak up on you. It’s important to learn the facts on how to stay healthy and happy while enjoying summertime.

The article above is by Dr. John Chang, senior medical officer, UnitedHealthcare, located in Cypress.