It's something most kids have been warned about time and time again by their parents – drink plenty of water otherwise you'll get sick. But what happens when we don't give our bodies enough water? Medically defined as a deficit in body water (i.e. you're losing more water than you're taking in), dehydration is a serious concern year-round, but especially in hotter weather. While normally associated with a benign feeling of thirst, severe dehydration can have serious impacts on your health.
In this blog, we'll be examining the causes and symptoms of dehydration, and looking at exactly how much water you need to avoid it. Read on and be water smart this summer.
A serious threat to your health
Whether you've just eaten some salty chips or it's been a few hours since you had a glass of water, the feeling of thirst is something that happens to everyone. While commonly conflated – and closely connected – thirst and dehydration are not the same. Dehydration refers to an overall decrease in the level of water in your body. The risk to your health scales with the deficit – a healthy person can easily tolerate a decrease in body water of three to four percent, but problems begin above this:
- 5-8% – fatigue and dizziness
- 10-15% – headaches, confusion, seizures, purple fingernails
- 15-25% – seizures, risk of death
A real risk over summer
Environmental factors play a big role in the vulnerability of people to dehydration. Hot weather causes loss in body water by sweating, which can be further compounded by exercise. Australia's extremely hot, dry climate increases this risk, making dehydration one of the most widely reported medical complaints in the country with 80% of Australians thought to be suffering from chronic mild dehydration, according to research from sparkling water company Sodastream.
So how much do you need?
The Victorian State Government recommends that to avoid dehydration as a result of loss of water through breath, perspiration, urine and bowel movements, a man would have to drink 2.6 litres, and a woman in the same climate would have to drink 2.1 litres.
This obviously differs during the kind scorching hot summers we experience in Australia. Those who work or exercise in hot weather can lose up to 2.5 litres of body fluids in sweat alone in an hour, so however much you're drinking when in the heat, assume it isn't enough.
And remember – if you're feeling thirsty, you're already dehydrated! Keep a bottle of water at hand and stay ahead!