Winter dehydration!

May sound funny or as if I have lost my mind! People usually identify dehydration with loss of fluid from the body i.e. due to vomiting, diarrhoea, food poisoning, dysentery, heat stroke etc. Very true! This dehydration that occurs after fluid loss may even prove fatal, but at the same time one can get dehydrated even during winter months and that too without any vomiting and/ or loose stools!



How can one get dehydrated in winter?

  • It is easy to get dehydrated in winters as we consume less water in despiteusual loss of fluid from daily activities
  • Sun usually shines brightly even during winter, hence engaging in outdoor sports also adds to dehydration.
  • Factors like cold, dry air, chilly wind, inadequate fluid intake, sweating due to sweaters/ woolens all contribute to fluid deficit and thus dehydration
  • Even a bout of shivering causes some amount of dehydration as the excess energy spent during shiver, burns body water.
  • Teenagers, especially those who participate in active sports are more susceptible as they are busy playing and forget to replace body fluids lost due to sweating.
  • A lot of kids go trekking/ hiking; these kids lose water and precious salt due to unaccustomed exertion and sweating. All such kids should be instructed to consume more (than usual) water and fluids before dark concentrated urine (first sign of dehydration) appears.
  • Dehydration is faster when the weather is very cold / on hill stations since the air is drier.
  • We also lose some water through our normal breathing; which means we need to drink more water even if we are breathing faster (unaccustomed long walks/ climbs). It gets more difficult as we don’t feel as thirsty in winters and forget to consume fluids.
  • Spending too much time in air-conditioned environment (long walks through air-conditioned malls and that too in winter) necessitates the thoughtful water consumption especially with kids.

Few tips for Moms:

  • In winter months, ensure that kids are not gulping large quantities of fluid at once, as this is likely to chill them. It is best to make them take small sips frequently.
  • Grown up kids should be told to avoid caffeine-containing drinks (coffee/ colas) as they cause more urination and that in itself leads fluid loss and dehydration.
  • If you are with kids, monitor the frequency, quantity and colour of their urine (tell older ones to do it themselves). If a child does not feel the urge to empty bladder for several hours it’s a sure sign he/ she is already in semi-dehydration.
  • The urine they pass, should be light yellow to clear in colour; a strong yellow colour (turmeric colour) is one of the best indicators of a need for better fluid intake.
  • Remember, the fact that by the time you/ your child feels thirsty and think of water, you/ they may be already 3% dehydrated.
  • One rule of thumb is aim to drink fluid (in ml) at least an equivalent of 30 times of our body weight in kilograms; i.e. a 50 kg person must have at least 1500 ml of water. Juices, soups, milk add to fluid consumption for the day.
  • Coffee (with Grande cups offering 300+ ml) consumed should not be counted in daily intake as it is dehydrating.

 And why should you worry about this subtle dehydration?

It leads to complaints of fatigue, restlessness and poor physical as well as mental performance levels.

Keep yourself and your kid well hydrated, even in winter!

Dr Shobha Ahuja, MBBS; FCGP, in family practice for over 30 years; is an ardent sports person; very active in inner wheel club; have presented papers at several conferences and writes regularly for consumers.

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