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July 21, 2012

Are you drinking enough fluids?

Ada — During extreme heat, adequate fluid is especially important because dehydration can be a major life-threatening problem. Children, older adults and people who work or are physically active outside for extended periods of time are particularly at risk for dehydration.

A loss of only 5 percent of body water can result in some signs of heat exhaustion.  A loss of 10 percent of body water can lead to heat stroke and circulatory collapse. Most people usually underestimate how much fluid they need to replace water lost due to prolonged exposure to extreme heat. Unfortunately, thirst is not an indication of fluid need because the onset of thirst lags behind the body’s need for water. Normal fluid needs for adults are at least 6 to 8 cups each day. However, additional fluid is required for exposure to heat.

For outside activities lasting less than one hour an extra 1-2 cups of water should be enough. For extended outside activities additional fluid needs to be consumed before, during and after time in the sun. Guidelines for fluid intake for extended outside activities include 2-3 cups of fluid about two hours before activity and an addition 1-2 cups of fluid about 15 minutes before the activity. Small amounts of fluid, about 6 to 8 ounces, should be consumed about every 15 to 20 minutes or 2-3 cups every hour during the activity.

After outside activity fluid should be consumed to replace weight lost. A tip for replacing water lost is to weigh before and after outside activity. A general guide is 2 cups of fluid are needed to replace every pound lost.

For activities lasting less than one hour plain cool water is best for replacing body water because it can be absorbed quickly.

Juices, soft drinks and other liquids containing more than 8 percent sugar may cause stomach cramps and diarrhea. Most sports drinks contain about 7 percent sugar, which is about half the amount of sugar in regular soft drinks.

For outside activities lasting more than one hour where perspiration occurs, water by itself may not be enough. A person can be dehydrated even if they are consuming fluid if they have lost electrolytes through perspiration. Consuming a combination of water and fluids containing electrolytes, such as Gatorade® or Powerade®, may be needed for hydration.

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