By Elizabeth Davis, MD, Pediatric Sports Medicine Specialist
There’s no doubt about it: Central Florida summers are hot. That extra heat — coupled with high humidity — can put you at risk for dehydration and heat-related illnesses (HRIs). This is especially true when exercise and sports are involved. That’s why it’s important to understand three key steps to staying hydrated. They include getting enough fluids, knowing when to adjust your fluid intake based on temperature and activity levels, and recognizing the warning signs of dehydration.
Step 1: Get Enough Fluids
How do you know if you are getting enough fluids? As a general rule of thumb, you can stay hydrated by drinking eight cups of water – or 64 fluid ounces – each day. If you don’t like the taste of water, consider “dressing-up” water with fruits or vegetables. Water also is much more palatable when ice cold.
Step 2: Know When to Adjust
While exercising or playing sports in hot and humid conditions, you’ll need more fluids with greater frequency. If you plan to exercise for longer than one hour, you may need to supplement water with sports drinks to help replace electrolytes lost through sweating.
Step 3: Know the Signs of Dehydration
When you are well hydrated, your urine will be pale yellow or nearly clear. And, it’s relatively easy to know when you are dehydrated – you feel thirsty. Other dehydration signals to be aware of include dark yellow urine, headache, nausea, faintness and vomiting. Watch for these signs in children when they exercise or play sports in hot weather. Dehydration can lead to more serious HRI risks, including heat syncope, or fainting caused by high temperatures; heat exhaustion, a condition caused by heat and dehydration; and heatstroke, or a dangerous rise in body temperature.
By following these three hydration steps, you can play safely outdoors, even on the hottest days.
Foods to Keep You Hydrated
Healthy foods with high water content can assist you in staying hydrated, says Orlando Health registered dietitian Lauren Popeck. A cup of fruit and/or vegetables equals about 6 ounces of water. She recommends:
- Celery, cucumbers, lettuce, radishes and zucchini, which are 95 percent to 96 percent water
- Tomatoes, which are 94 percent water
- Cabbage, cauliflower, eggplant, peppers, spinach, strawberries and watermelon, which are 92 percent to 93 percent water
Bored With Water?
Try these fresh ideas from Orlando Health registered dietitian Lauren Popeck:
- Infuse water with veggies and herbs such as cucumber and mint.
- Stir drink mixes and flavor enhancers free of artificial colors or sweeteners into water.
- Combine club soda, seltzer or mineral water with fresh or frozen fruit cubes.
- Enjoy iced or hot decaffeinated tea with a squeeze of orange or lemon.
- Indulge with iced or hot decaffeinated coffee.
- Use freshly squeezed lemons and natural sweeteners such as Stevia to create homemade lemonade.