The key to staying hydrated and healthy in the hot summer months is to drink lots of water and don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink. It’s true that thirst is a signal for you to drink, but it also means your body is already lacking water.
Your body needs water to:
- keep your temperature normal
- lubricate and cushion joints
- protect your spinal cord and other sensitive tissues
- break down food and absorb nutrients
- get rid of waste through urination, perspiration and bowel movements
Your body loses water through sweating, breathing and getting rid of waste. If you lose more fluid than you take in, you get dehydrated, meaning you don’t have enough water in your body to carry out normal functions.
Even mild dehydration can sap your energy and make you feel tired. That’s why it’s so important to drink water throughout the day, particularly for seniors and children, and even more so in the heat and humidity and when doing strenuous physical activity.
Your pets can get dehydrated, too. Provide them with plenty of fresh water and leave it in a shady area.
Symptoms of dehydration
- dryness of the mouth
- dry skin
- passing less urine than normal
- cramping in the arms and legs
- extreme thirst
- parched mouth and tongue
- rapid pulse
- dark, yellow urine
- little or no urination
- sunken eyes
- skin loses elasticity
- absence of tears when crying
- irritability or drowsiness
- irrational behaviour
How much water a day is enough?
The amount of water you need is different for everyone and depends on your age, gender and activity level.
On average, a healthy adult living in a temperate climate requires about:
- 7 litres of fluids a day for men
- 7 litres of fluids a day for women
You should consume more than this in warm weather and when you’re physically active.
Water is a healthy, calorie-free way of staying hydrated but you can also help meet your fluid needs by consuming other beverages, broth soups and foods with a high water content such as celery, tomatoes and melons. Low fat milk and unsweetened fortified soy beverages are also healthy options for staying hydrated.
Eat a balanced diet that contains fruit and vegetables and stay away from sugary, high-protein, alcoholic or caffeinated drinks, which actually cause you to lose body fluid.
If your doctor has told you to limit the amount you drink or you’re taking diuretics (water pills), ask how much you should drink when the weather is hot.
Tips for staying hydrated
- Keep a pitcher of water in the fridge and add lemon, lime, orange or cucumber slices for variety.
- Drink water with your meals. Keep a pitcher of water on the table.
- Freeze water in freezer-safe water bottles. Take a bottle when you go out and enjoy cold water all day.
- Carry a water bottle with you at work, at school or when running errands.
- Order water with your meal when you eat out at a restaurant.
- Don’t skip meals. Much of your fluid comes from regular meals.
- Vegetables and fruit contain lots of water. When you play sports, choose watermelon or orange slices instead of sports drinks. However, sports drinks do help hydrate and replace sodium and potassium lost through perspiration.
- If you’re on a low-salt diet, have diabetes, high blood pressure or other chronic conditions, talk to your doctor before drinking a sports beverage or taking salt tablets.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Government of Canada
National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, Medicine