Winter Dehydration: Is Dehydration Still a Risk in Cold Weather?
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If you often feel foggy-headed, fatigued, or irritable in the colder winter months, you might shrug it off as a mild version of seasonal affective disorder (SAD). However, the real culprit might be something as simple as not drinking enough water.
While we don’t usually associate cold weather with dehydration, the risk increases during the colder months, according to a study by The University of New Hampshire. Since we don’t feel as thirsty when the cold sets in, we may forget to drink enough water. Plus, the body doesn’t get as hot as in the scorching summer season, and sweat evaporates more rapidly in cold air. But as explained in this article, we can lose fluids rapidly even when snuggled in bed or layered up with extra clothing outdoors to keep warm.
Dehydration occurs when the body loses more fluids than it takes in – and winter dehydration might be a bigger, more widespread problem than most people realize. So, even when the temperatures drop, you still need to ensure you drink enough water throughout the day.
Let’s explore the concept of winter dehydration and what you should know to stay happy, healthy, and hydrated this winter season.
What Causes Winter Dehydration?
Various factors contribute to the increased levels of dehydration during wintertime:
1. You feel less thirsty when it’s cold.
Did you know your body’s thirst response diminishes up to 40 percent in cold weather? When it’s chilly out, our blood vessels constrict to prevent blood from flowing freely to the extremities – which explains having cold hands and feet in cold environments. While drawing more blood from the extremities and directing it to our core helps conserve heat and protect our vital organs, it tricks the body into thinking it’s properly hydrated, making you don’t feel as thirsty. That’s why athletes training or performing in cold weather are less likely to drink water voluntarily. Furthermore, specific hormones in the body don’t signal the kidneys to conserve water, increasing urine production and resulting in cold dieresis.
2. The signs of dehydration aren’t as evident in dry, cold air.
In dry, cold air, sweat on the skin evaporates almost immediately. Being less sweaty may sound pleasant, but it makes it more difficult to notice when you’re losing water. Without the cue of a damp shirt or lots of sweat running down your body, you might not realize you’re dehydrated and forego your regular water intake. But the reality is that you can lose water as rapidly in winter as in the summer months.
3. Drinking water is less desirable in cold weather.
When it gets cold outside, drinking water is usually less desirable – at least when there’s delicious hot chocolate, coffee, sodas, and other beverages to give a sense of “comfort” in the cold. But as you probably know, these beverages don’t help with hydration and can dehydrate the body more than drinking nothing.
4. Bundling up in winter clothes can be a sweaty affair.
Engaging in outdoor exercise during winter can be great for the mind and body. But if you despise the cold, you might be tempted to overdress on purpose to remain warm. Many people layer up so much that they don’t feel or see the sweat through their clothes. But because they don’t feel as hot, they don’t realize that you’re losing as much fluid as they are.
5. The indoor heat reduces humidity.
If you’re constantly dehydrated in winter, your environment might be a part of the problem. Winter air is naturally less humid, but heaters indoors pull even more moisture from the air, leaving the air very dry. Spending more time inside working, sleeping, and hanging out keeps you exposed to this dry air for much of your day, causing you to lose fluids and become dehydrated much more quickly.
Common Winter Dehydration Symptoms
Dehydration can appear differently from person to person, but recognizing the symptoms will help alert you when your body is running low on H2O and needs more water. The signs of dehydration in adults include:
- Being thirsty means your body needs water. However, it doesn’t always mean you’re dehydrated. Many people can be dehydrated without being thirsty.
- Water plays a vital role in your health and well-being – whether hanging out on the sofa, working at the office, or exercising at the gym. If you feel tired and sluggish, you might be dehydrated.
- When dehydrated, your brain and other tissues shrink. As your brain shrinks, it pulls away from the skull, puts pressure on nerves, and causes pain.
- Sugar cravings. Dehydration makes it difficult for your body to metabolize glycogen for energy. As a result, your body craves sugar to give you a quick boost of energy.
- Dark-colored urine. Urine naturally has some yellow pigments called urobilin or urochrome. The darker the urine is, the more concentrated it tends to be. If your urine is dark yellow or amber-colored, you’re likely not drinking enough H2O. Aim for a light-yellow, close-to-clear color, but please note that consistently clear urine may indicate you’re drinking too much water, which can rob your body of electrolytes.
- Less frequent sweating and urinating. Most people urinate six to 10 times a day and sweat heavily during intense exercise. If this doesn’t happen for you, it’s probably time to drink more water.
- Dry mouth. A dry mouth signals that your salivary glands aren’t producing enough saliva, so your body doesn’t have enough fluid to produce the saliva you need.
- Dry skin. Signs of dehydrated skin include dark under-eye circles, itchiness, dullness, fine lines, and wrinkles.
Signs of severe dehydration in adults include:
- Sleepiness, lack of energy, confusion, or irritability
- Fever above 103 degrees Fahrenheit
- Decreased skin elasticity
- Poor concentration
- Altered mental state
- Difficulty breathing
- Feeling dizzy or light-headed
- Chest or stomach pain
- Sunken eyes
- Cracked lips
Note: Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and needs to be treated immediately.
The symptoms of dehydration in infants and young children may look a little different. Learn more about dehydration in babies and children.
Tips to Help Prevent Winter Dehydration
Given the symptoms of winter dehydration outlined above, start paying close attention to the amount of fluid you consume daily and take action if you have been drinking too little. If you’re ready to start (or continue) taking good care of your health, we’ve compiled a list of simple and creative tips to help you stay hydrated throughout the cold winter season and, hopefully, make it a daily habit.
1. Keep a water bottle on hand.
Whether you’re out and about or at home for most of the day, it’s a good idea to fill up a reusable water bottle and bring it wherever you go. Since you can’t rely on thirst alone to tell if you’re dehydrated, keeping a water bottle handy makes it easier for you to hydrate on time and more frequently. It also acts as a physical reminder to stay hydrated. Plus, you’re likely to drink more water when it’s right next to you.
2. Set water goals, create a routine, and track your daily water intake.
Another excellent way to ensure you drink enough water throughout the day is to set clear water goals and track every ounce of water you drink. Scheduling your water intake, like two glasses at breakfast, lunch, and dinner, is an easy way to know you’re getting enough water.
3. Set reminders to hydrate.
You won’t always remember to hydrate, especially if you’re busy during the day, but one thing you can do to ensure you don’t forget to drink up is to set reminders. With modern smartphones and smartwatches, setting “hydration reminders” is super easy. Set a recurring reminder on your device, so you won’t have to do it daily. You can also post a sticky note reminder on your desk or draw lines on your water bottle with hours to drink water throughout the day.
4. Add flavor to your water.
If you’re not fond of plain water, incorporating fruits can add flavor and make it more delicious and healthier. Cucumber, mint leaves, lime, lemon, and orange are popular choices, but you could experiment with other flavors. Not only will you receive the hydration from the water, but fruits rich in antioxidants may help flush toxins from your body, aid muscle fatigue, boost metabolism and fill your stomach, so you’re less likely to snack on unhealthy foods.
5. Eat plenty of fruits and veggies.
Water-rich foods can help maximize your hydration and provide many other incredible benefits. Watermelon, strawberries, tomatoes, mushrooms, spinach, broccoli, cucumber, and celery comprise more than 90 percent water. Aside from increasing your water intake, some fruits and vegetables also contain vitamins, nutrients, electrolytes, and fiber to keep the body refreshed and skin glowing.
6. Avoid alcohol and sugary beverages.
While sodas, ice teas, sweetened coffee, alcoholic drinks, and other beverages might be tastier than plain ol’ H2O, they can cause you to become dehydrated. Sodas and juices are high in sugar, like fructose and glucose, which can contribute to tooth decay and inhibit the body from absorbing the water it needs. Alcohol is a diuretic, making you pee more often and aiding fluid loss.
If you’re looking for a flavored or fizzy liquid, try drinking flavored sparkling water but make sure you’re aware of the benefits and side effects of carbonated water before making the switch. You can also try mineral water. Unsweetened herbal teas might be an excellent choice if you like caffeine.
7. Drink healthy hot beverages.
If you don’t like drinking cold water in the wintertime, you can choose healthy, warmer alternatives like green tea and cinnamon tea if you’re one of them.
8. Layer up, but not too much.
Wearing layers of clothing can help regulate your body temperature and keep you warm in the cold, but be careful not to overdo it. We recommend wearing layers of breathable fabrics instead of heavy-duty woolen or similar material.
9. Filter your water.
Your hydration efforts are only as effective as the quality of the water you drink. Untreated tap water can contain various potentially dangerous contaminants, chemicals, impurities, and other elements – many of which can cause severe illness, disease, and even death. So, you’ll need to eliminate them before you even take a sip.
The safest and easiest way to ensure your drinking water is free of unwanted elements is to filter it with a water filter, like an under-counter reverse osmosis filter or whole house water filtration system. Each filter system provides your home with healthy, great-tasting water that you can drink straight from the tap or bottle or take with you.
Cleaner, Safer, Healthier Hydration with Springwell
If you need a solution that provides clean, fresh, contaminant-free water at specific outlets in your home, like your kitchen faucet, an under-counter reverse osmosis filter may be the perfect fit. Easily installable under your kitchen sink, this point-of-use (POU) system uses reverse osmosis to eliminate a broad range of contaminants from water to ensure your water is safe and healthy to drink. These contaminants include lead, copper, fluoride, PFAS, arsenic, aluminum, chlorine, chloramine, herbicides, and pesticides, among many others.
On the other hand, a whole-house water filter delivers tasty, high-quality water to all water outlets in your household. It treats all the water entering your home, meaning you’ll have access to clean filtered water at your kitchen and bathroom faucets, washing machine and dishwasher, and all other outlets.
Whole-house systems typically use different filtering techniques, technologies, and features to target and remove harmful contaminants like chlorine, chloramine, PFAS, heavy metals, pesticides, herbicides, haloacetic acids, and many more. Depending on the model whole-house system you purchase, you can customize it with a UV Water Purification System.
A UV filter destroys microbes in water, such as viruses, parasites, and bacteria, thereby eliminating foul odors and taste and protecting you and your family from diseases, infections, and other adverse health conditions.
If you want to learn more about the best water filter for cleaner, healthier, and better-tasting water and how to find the ideal one for your needs, reach out to us on chat or give us a call at 800-589-5592.
So, the answer is a clear “yes.” Dehydration is still a risk in cold weather. That means whether you’re hitting the slopes or spending an afternoon cross-country skiing, it’s important to hydrate! But more importantly, consider installing a water filter system to remove potentially toxic contaminants from your drinking water to ensure the water you hydrate with is clean, safe, and healthy.