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Busting dehydration myths

Riddle Hospital July 7, 2016 General Wellness

Now that the hot and humid days of summer have arrived, it’s time to start thinking about some common summer health concerns—bug bites, sunburn and, of course, dehydration.

“Dehydration is a very common condition but, because it is so common, there is a great deal of misinformation out there about the topic,” says Maria Bucco, DO, internal medicine physician at Riddle Hospital.

Below, Dr. Bucco debunks some of the most common dehydration myths.

Myth: Sports drinks are the best option when you’re dehydrated.

After an outdoor summer workout, many people are quick to turn to sports drinks for their electrolytes, which can help the body recover more quickly from strenuous activity. But, if water is your drink of choice, don’t fret—it can still deliver relief from a standard workout. If you’re outside going for a walk, completing an hour-long workout, or not completing a particularly difficult workout, water will typically do the trick in re-hydrating you.

However, if your workout takes place outside and lasts for more than an hour or is more difficult than usual, you may want to have a sports drink on hand to help your body recover more quickly.

If you’ll be working out outside, try to complete your workout early in the morning or in the evening, when temperatures are lower and the sun is not as high. You’re less likely to be dehydrated, or suffer repercussions from the temperature.

Myth: You need eight glasses of water per day.

Feel like you’ll never get to eight glasses a day? Turns out that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Everyone’s nutritional needs vary, and that includes how much water they need. Instead of worrying about drinking a certain number of glasses or ounces per day, drink when you’re thirsty or with a meal.

Myth: By the time you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.

It’s a cautionary phrase you’ve probably heard from a parent, teacher, or camp counselor before, but don’t worry—thirst doesn’t equal dehydration.

“Just because you’re thirsty doesn’t mean your health is at risk, but it does mean that it’s a good time for you to reach for a glass of water,” says Dr. Bucco.

Remember, water is best in situations like these. Sports drinks, caffeinated beverages, and alcohol won’t quench your thirst as effectively as a glass of water.

Signs of dehydration

Even though there are a few myths surrounding dehydration, it’s still worth taking seriously. So, how can you tell if it’s dehydration? Look out for symptoms like:

  • Dark urine
  • Fatigue
  • Dry skin
  • Headache and dizziness
  • Constipation

In very severe cases of dehydration, you may also notice symptoms like:

  • Dry mouth
  • Dry skin
  • Rapid pulse and heartbeat
  • Low blood pressure

If you notice symptoms like these, particularly in children, begin hydrating with water and electrolytes as soon as possible. If you have questions, call your physician’s office or for emergency medical attention.

“Because dehydration is very common, most people don’t think of it as a significant threat,” says Dr. Bucco. “But, if it’s left untreated, dehydration can lead to heat exhaustion or heat stroke, and severe health concerns like seizures, kidney failure, or swelling of the brain.”

If you do find yourself experiencing the symptoms of dehydration, Main Line Health provides a variety of options for after-hours and emergency care, including certified urgent care centers at the Main Line Health Exton Square and Main Line Health Broomall, both of which have hours on nights, weekends, and holidays. All four Main Line Health hospitals are home to emergency departments. To learn more about these services, visit our website.