Stay hydrated in the heat!

By Molly Gee, MEd, RD
Stay hydrated
With extreme heat and humidity, the body struggles to keep from overheating through sweating. The trade-off can be a loss of up to 1.5 liters of sweat an hour in extreme temperatures.
July 12, 2016

Sunburn, insect bites and dehydration-all can bring dangerous consequences.  However, not getting enough fluids on board can be deadly and is the most preventable.

Did you know?

  • Water makes up over 2/3’s the weight of the body
  • Thirst indicates dehydration 
  • Survival without water can be hours or days

With extreme heat and humidity, the body struggles to keep from overheating through sweating.  The trade-off can be a loss of up to 1.5 liters of sweat an hour in extreme temperatures.  Replacing this lost water is vital or the total body volume (especially blood) can fall rapidly and may result in heat stroke and low blood pressure.  Some common symptoms of heat stroke include:

  • High body temperature
  • Not sweating
  • Difficulty in breathing
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Agitation or anxiety
  • Disorientation
  • Loss of consciousness


Call 911 and initiate aid by moving the victim to an air-conditioned place, removing unnecessary clothing, sponging their skin with cool water and applying ice packs or frozen veggies to the neck, underarms or back to bring down body temperature.  

Babies, children, older adults and people with compromised immune system are at higher risk for dehydration.

Avoid potential disaster in the summer with some easy tips to prevent dehydration in the first place.

  1. Heed extreme heat alerts by avoiding strenuous outdoor activities between 11:00 am and 5:00 pm when heat is most intense. 
  2. Protect yourself from the sun with sunscreen with Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of 30 or more, wear a hat and light, loose fitting clothing.
  3. Stay hydrated by drinking lots of fluids, with low calorie soft drinks or water as a first choice, and enjoying fruits and vegetables that have a higher water content.  Think watermelon!  All liquids count, including coffee and tea.  Alcohol is the exception because it actually acts like a diuretic which causes more fluid loss.  Eighty percent of the body’s water intake is from fluids and 20% is actually from foods.
  4. Exercise has special requirements for hydration.  Drink 12-20 ounces of water before starting activity, drink 8-12 ounces every 15-20 minutes during and after exercise.  Sports drinks with added sugar and electrolytes like sodium and potassium may be helpful if exercising for more than one hour.

How do I know if I’m getting dehydrated? A quick check on the color of the urine will be the test.  A colorless or light yellow color means successful hydration while a dark yellow or amber color means more fluid is needed.

Please, just keep drinking the beverage of your choice - low calorie sodas, water, tea, coffee, milk, or sports drink throughout the day for your health’s sake.  

Molly Gee, MEd, RD is a nutrition communications consultant in Houston, TX. Molly regularly provides expert counsel to the Aspartame Resource Center




Stay hydrated in the heat

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