Winter Dehydration

We’re conscious about hydration in the summer, when hot sun and sweaty outdoor activities remind us that we need to drink plenty of water. In the winter, we may get fewer thirst signals from our bodies. The dryer air, both indoors and out, can speed fluid loss just from breathing. We may also eat fewer water-rich fruits and vegetables, as french fries and bread replace watermelon and cucumbers on our plates.

The result can be winter dehydration.

Health effects of dehydration

Dehydration may not seem like a serious issue, but it can have serious effects on your health. Since you may not connect symptoms of dehydration with their actual cause, you might not recognize that you are becoming dehydrated. 

Some of the common symptoms of dehydration:

  • Dizziness
  • Fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Headaches
  • Constipation
  • Mood changes
  • Confusion
  • Nausea
  • Kidney stones

Stay hydrated this winter

Your body needs two to three liters of water every day. That’s 8 to 11 glasses of water — more than most of us drink. The average American adult drinks just 49 ounces of water a day, which works out to only about 6 glasses of water. 

You can expect to get about 20% of your daily hydration from the foods you eat, but of course that varies according to your eating habits. Enjoy soup and make an effort to keep up your consumption of fruit and vegetables.

The bottom line: you probably need to drink more water than you’re drinking now. 

Ways to keep hydrated:

  • Keep a bottle of water with you all the time. You might be in the habit of carrying water in the summer, but it’s a good habit to keep up in the winter, too. You can use a two-liter bottle or a 64-ounce bottle if it’s hard to remember. 
  • Add a water checklist to your daily calendar. Stamps and stickers can add some fun, but a line of 8 to 11 checkboxes will work just fine.
  • Set an hourly water timer on your phone or smartwatch. Whenever the timer goes off, drink a glass of water. Take a minute to move, walk around, or stretch while you’re at it. You’ll get back to work feeling more focused.

When to see your doctor

If your infant doesn’t have a wet diaper for three hours, or cries without tears, you should call your family doctor or pediatrician. Dehydration can be dangerous for small children and for elderly people.

An adult who hasn’t urinated in eight hours or who is vomiting and can’t keep fluids down should also see a doctor. Call your physician if you have concerns or questions.