Every season brings its own health concerns with it, and summer is absolutely no exception. Far from it, actually. What with the high heat and humidity, heavy sun, and extra time outdoors, there are plenty of extra things to keep track of once June arrives. (We don’t have to remind you again to wear sunscreen, do we? Good.)
One of the most basic concerns, though, is so fundamental it’s actually really easy to overlook: staying hydrated! While most of us are relatively good at drinking lots of extra water while we’re exercising or spending tons of extra time outdoors, it’s actually really, really easy to become dehydrated while just going about our daily lives. It’s entirely possible that we’re dehydrated right now and don’t even know it! So how can we tell we need some hydration, STAT, other than debilitating thirst? By paying attention to our bodies and looking out for these common, little-known signs. You might be dehydrated if:
- You have a headache.
Before you reach for the pain killers, reach for glass of water. Your brain needs water as much as your other organs – it sits in a protective fluid sack inside your skull, after all – and a lack of water means it’s lacking oxygen, blood flow, and protection from bumps. The result of all that deprivation? Pain. So if you get a headache, consider it a first warning from your brain, and drink a glass of water before you try other treatment.
- You feel dizzy.
Those issues causing you head pain? They can also make you dizzy. When you’re dehydrated, blood and oxygen flow to your brain decrease, causing your vision to blur, the world to spin, and/or you to feel dizzy and/or lightheaded. Plus, dehydration can aggravate a tendency toward syncope, making the likelihood of fainting higher. If you feel a spell of dizziness coming on, get to safe place where you can sit or lie down without hurting yourself, preferably with a trusted friend or family member, and drink some water as soon as you can.
- You’re tired— all the time.
Yes, your sleepiness could very well indicate that you need more sleep – very few of us actually get sufficient rest – but it could also mean you’re dehydrated. That decrease in blood and oxygen to the brain we keep mentioning? It not only makes you dizzy and causes headaches, it can make you feel tired and lethargic, too. If you notice your motivation for activity dropping, perk up by increasing your water consumption.
- Your breath stinks.
Brush and floss regularly but still struggle with embarrassing breath? You might just need to drink more water. A healthy, hydrated body produces saliva, which in turn fights bacteria. Not enough water equals less saliva, which in turns means more bacteria. And that bacteria? It smells. If you can’t tell if you have unpleasant breath and there’s nobody in your life willing to be brutally honest, dry mouth is also a sign of the same situation. Luckily, drinking water is an easy fix.
- Your skin is dry.
Seems obvious when we point it out, doesn’t it? Much like lack of water dries out your mouth, it also dries out your skin. No wonder the first step in skin care advice is always, “Drink enough water!” More specifically, if you typically have oily skin and suddenly notice dry patches, it probably means you’ve become dehydrated. As Bustle points out, dehydrated skin lacks moisture, not oil, so that “combination” skin might actually be oily skin not getting enough water. Plus, if you’re dehydrated, you’re sweating less, meaning your skin isn’t flushing out toxins, oils, and excess dirt the way it should, which leads to psoriasis, acne, eczema, and other skin conditions. Pay attention to your skin – including you lips! – for signs you should up your water intake.
- Your digestion’s going haywire.
Feeling constipated? Experiencing painful or difficult bowel movements? Have indigestion or acid reflux? You might need to drink a lot more water. Regular, healthy hydration keeps the gastrointestinal track clean and supple, which makes everything work the way it should for regular, healthy digestion. Plus, it makes sure that your stools don’t harden and/or become difficult to pass. It’s not a pretty subject, but it’s important— and easy to fix with water.
- Your urine is infrequent and/or the wrong color.
It’s another subject that’s not pretty, but your urine is probably THE best way to tell if you’re ingesting enough water. You should have to urinate four to seven times a day, and your urine should be clear and/or lightly yellow. Dark yellow or amber-colored urine indicates dehydration. Anything darker than that or orange? You’re severely dehydrated, and should see a doctor.
- You have sudden, intense food cravings.
In between meals but suddenly feel like you HAVE to have a snack? Hold off and have a glass of water first. While some debate the idea that our bodies mistake thirst for hunger, it is true that hydration is an important part of getting nutrients to our organs and making sure we’re digesting food properly. Dehydration is, subsequently, linked to both a lack of electrolytes and a difficulty in producing glycogen. How does that make us feel? Like we’re craving, respectively, something salty or something sweet! So if you suddenly feel like you need some chips or some chocolate, try drinking water first and see how much your willpower increases.
- You have a fever or chills.
Since we associate drinking water with cooling off, this sign might be surprising, but a high fever and/or the chills that go with it can actually be a sign of severe dehydration. If your fever reaches over 101 degrees Fahrenheit, consult your doctor.
- You’re in pain.
We don’t just mean headaches; we’re talking cramps, joint pain, and the muscle seizes that wake us up in the middle of the night . Our joints and cartilage are about 80 percent water, so a lack of water increases the friction in our joints that causes pain. Plus, a lack of electrolytes, potassium and sodium – all of which hydration helps increase – is linked to cramps. So if you can’t make it through your usual workout – or a night’s sleep – without pain? Drink some water.
- You’re not sweating.
Something else to look out for during those workouts? How much you’re sweating. We sweat to regulate our body’s core temperature, and we can’t do that if there’s not enough water in our bodies to make that sweat. So if you have an intense workout and don’t sweat, don’t be pleased that you don’t need a shower. Get some water IMMEDIATELY.
As always, consult your doctor if you experience any unusual, intense, and/or sustained symptoms of dehydration or other health issues. The best thing you can do for your body? Pay attention to it— and drink water, of course.