Our bodies are two thirds water so it won’t come as a surprise that dehydration can cause all sorts of problems. The good news is that staying hydrated is easy.
So how much should we drink?
National guidelines recommend adults and teenagers to drink 6-8 glasses of water a day (about 1.5 – 2 litres), children despite having higher body fluid levels need to drink slightly less (they are just smaller). These are averages and vary depending on climate and how much exercise you are doing.
This probably sounds like a lot of water but the truth is that most drinks will do the same job and all count as fluid intake. Anything you drink will help you to hydrate to a point but some drinks are better than others. Tap water is ideal, it’s free, easy to get hold of and calorie free. Other drinks such as milk, tea, coffee, fruit juice and soft drinks contain 85% water and can be included in total fluid intake. However be aware of the impacts of the other 15% of ingredients which are often sugar! If you do choose to have sugary drinks try to have them with a meal to limit dental problems.
Many still think that coffee dehydrates you more than it hydrates, it is a mild diuretic but the fluid will outweigh this and will improve hydration even if there are better options. You can always take a water with your coffee if you like it short. Very Italian!
- Sip some water little and often
- Carry a water bottle with you, especially if exercising or by your desk when working – this way you know how much you have drunk and can give yourself healthy targets
Did you know, human skeletal muscle is at least 75% water…. read this article to see how not drinking enough may be affecting your athletic performance and recovery
Are you drinking enough? Check the colour of your urine
It’s easy to lose track of how much you are drinking but don’t worry, you can use this chart as a guide to whether you are drinking enough, just have a look at your pee next time you go to the toilet.
Other symptoms of dehydration include –
- Pain/burning when urinating (could be a Urinary Tract Infection)
- dry mouth, lips or eyes
- lack of concentration
What happens if you don’t drink enough?
In the short term not a lot. If you notice that you are getting dehydrated then make an effort to drink more and watch your urine become paler. Some people struggle to do this and long-term dehydration can cause serious problems.
If dehydration is left untreated, it can become severe. Severe dehydration is a medical emergency and requires immediate medical attention. Symptoms of severe dehydration include –
- feeling unusually tired (lethargic) or confused
- not passing urine for eight hours
- a weak pulse
- a rapid pulse
- fits (seizures)
- a low level of consciousness
The bottom line is try not to get dehydrated. It is easier to stay hydrated than to rehydrate so keep an eye on your pee and aim to have a glass of water with every meal.
If you are worried that you are dehydrated or have any of the symptoms listed above then seek medical attention.
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