Dehydration is not just a summer problem. When the outside temperatures reach uncomfortable levels, our brains kick in to correction mode and we reach for a cooling drink. It’s a natural reaction. However, when it is freezing cold, icy or snowy conditions or a biting wind, we assume that all we need to do is ‘wrap up warm’. This actually couldn’t be further from the truth!
Winter hydration is equally as important as summer hydration, but the danger is that we may just simply not realise it. We will naturally dress up in layers of clothes, turn on the central heating to high, and sleep under a heavily-togged duvet – some of us will add an electric blanket or a hot water bottle – even bedsocks! Windows are closed and frequently, in spite of extortionate fuel costs, we may not even turn off the central heating.
Overheating the body during winter time is a common occurrence and not as easily identified as a summer ‘sweat’ (perspiration for the ladies!). Snuggling up when the temperatures outside have plunged in the evening is an automatic reaction. But it is not a good idea.
So how do we ensure that we stay hydrated during winter and not fall into the trap of thinking cold means fuelling our bodies with extra clothing, warm temperatures and comforting food? There are some very simple steps to follow which may go ‘against the grain’ in terms of natural reactions, but are a much healthier option and will prevent dehydration and sleepless nights in particular. The steps are logical, but can often escape our thought process when we are shivering like crazy!
- Our natural reactions in winter make us go for longer periods without water. We eat more food (these foods will be comforting as opposed to rehydrating) and hydration gained from foods will lessen. Who wants to eat salads which provide an amazing amount of hydration, when all you really want is burger and chips with lots of salt and dressings?
- Going out shopping during the day – breathing cold, dry air does result in your body losing significant amounts of fluid. We move more briskly, causing us to perspire under layers of clothes – this perspiration turns into vapour which does not collect on the skin, so there is no obvious clue that we need to hydrate.
- It is a scientific fact that during the cold winter months, we feel 40 per cent less thirsty! In actual fact, our bodily needs for water remain unchanged throughout the year! Taking a bottle of water to work in the winter months is almost unthinkable, but just as necessary.
- Layers of clothes will trap any air that needs to circulate as a natural cooling effect. Trapped air will cause more perspiration than you can imagine. As soon as you move into warmer, drier temperatures, such as the office or your cosy home, your body re-adjusts to climate, and more fluid loss will occur.
- Daytime or night time central heating is a critical factor in dehydration, with the night time being the worst in terms of dehydration due to your sleeping hours. Night time dehydration results in blocked noses, headaches, dry mouth or incredible thirst, particularly if you leave the central heating on and the windows closed.
So what are the remedies?
The first thing to consider is any heating, either at work or home. If you really must have the heating on full blast, try to ensure there is still adequate fresh air circulating, even if you only open the window a tiny bit.
At night time, consider lowering the tog ratio of your duvet. We all know that although we feel cold when first slipping into bed, that is soon rectified.
Try to have healthy, rehydrating foods at work or home during the day. If the thought of salads gives you the chills, try soups, particularly vegetable ones, that will give you plenty of hydration. Food items such as chips, or spicy food, can often contribute to dehydration, due to the salt content. You can drink coffee, tea or hot chocolate, but do remember to sip water in between, to maintain hydration levels.
Try not to wear too many clothes – this results in our bodies conserving heat, and consequently sweating much more, so fluid loss is inevitable. The less fluid you lose, the better your body will work and be resilient to winter illnesses.
When out walking in the cold air, try to slow down your breathing ( we know this is not always easy!). The ‘vapour’ that you see when breathing hard in winter months is actually fluid loss.
Hope this all helps, and try to remember still to keep that bottle of water handy!