Six "Ifs" of Dehydration

What to drink, and when to drink it

It is going to be 102 here in Portland today, which is far, far too hot. And many parts of the country are suffering under the same heat wave, which means that dehydration warnings are in effect. Here are my six "ifs" of dehydration:

  1. If you are thirsty, you're already dehydrated. Start drinking now and don't stop just because you're no longer thirsty. Keep drinking until you start sweating and until you're peeing a lot. It should be light in color; the darker it is, the more you need to drink.
  2. If you have kids, make them drink. Don't rely on them to tell you they're thirsty. Schedule water breaks, and monitor their sweating and urine output. It's really easy for kids to get dehydrated quickly, and they just don't have the internal monitors yet to know when they're in trouble.
  3. If you are on diuretics, double your fluid intake. Some folks are on prescription diuretics, and they've probably gotten this hot weather warning already from their doctor. But if you're taking over-the-counter diet pills, you may be taking a diuretic and not know it. While we're at it, can I just talk you out of diet pills altogether?
  4. If you are working out or really sweating a lot, you need a sports drink but otherwise don't waste your money. Regular old heat will not deplete your body unless you're out there doing pushups and the like in the heat. In which case, a perfectly good substitute for purchased sports drinks is 1 teaspoon of salt in a gallon of real (not artificial) lemonade.
  5. If you drink a lot of coffee, soda or black tea, switch to decaf or avoid altogether for the duration. Caffeine depletes water; you have to drink twice the amount of a caffeinated beverage as of water to get the same benefit. Alcohol has almost no thirst-quenching benefits at all.
  6. If you're one of the people who can't stand drinking water plain, try a little fruit juice in it but don't swap out fruit juice 100% for the water. Try 5 to 1 water to fruit juice at the most. Sugars in the fluid reduces the effectiveness of the liquid for re-hydration; you have to drink that much more of it to get the same benefit as just plain water.

Lynn Siprelle edits this site>