Stay hydrated as we step into the real summer


In 2016, a story was circulating in the mainstream media suggesting that 80% of Australians were showing signs of dehydration – and most didn’t know it.

Research has suggested that only one in 20 Australians associate problems with concentration and mental impairment with dehydration – despite more than half of the national population exhibiting these symptoms.

The research was conducted by the SodaStream Company, supported by – and apparently in tandem with – neuroscientist and medical writer Dr Sarah McKay.

She was quoted as saying, “The results support scientific studies which show that even mild dehydration can cause fatigue, increased complaints of headaches, thirst, drowsiness and difficulty concentrating. “

Although many people think that two liters is the recommended daily amount for everyone, “the amount needed varies depending on individual factors such as age, diet, climate and levels of physical activity.”

For men aged 19 to 70, she says, “it’s actually considerably higher, around 2.6 liters.”

It’s a shame that it took a business venture to at least try to figure out how many of us don’t drink enough water.

Studies have looked at dehydration in elderly care facilities, but the general population does not appear to have been studied.

And while the research, which appeared to be an investigation, was widely reported without difficult questioning, it failed to create greater awareness around hydration.

This is what is required.

So what’s the real point of this?

While summer officially begins in December, it doesn’t really start – like a sizzling experience – until we enter January.

It’s a drying time and Dr McKay is probably right: the vast majority of Australians don’t recognize when they’re dehydrated.

The answer is simple: when you are thirsty, you are already dehydrated.

Some people probably think they have enough water because they are going to stand in front of the kitchen sink and drink the somewhat mythical eight glasses all at once. Or maybe two sessions.

Much of it is quickly expelled in the urine.

The trick is to drink it all day long.

How much water do we need?

The eight drinks a day we hear about for many years has always been a rough estimate.

How much we really need is the subject of an ongoing debate. See here.

As the Mayo Clinic notes, it differs from person to person.

For example, people who eat a high protein diet, like a lot of steak and chicken, put extra stress on their kidneys. Drinking more water can reduce this stress.

Some common sense rules apply: Men generally need more than women, and people who work or play outside in hot weather can easily lose a quart or more to sweat in a short period of time.

What’s also important to know is that babies and young children have a higher risk of becoming dehydrated than adults, especially if they are sick.

Severely dehydrated babies have a sunken fontanel, the soft spot above a baby’s head – and at this point you need to get to your GP quickly.

Additionally, older people can become dehydrated easily due to declining kidney function, chronic disease, limited mobility, and their medications.

If you have a senior living at home, watch their fluid intake.

What does water do for us?

Remember that tea and coffee are diuretics and alcohol is dehydrating.

It is water that our body needs.

A practical explainer from Harvard Medical School advises body temperature and maintains electrolyte (sodium) balance.

In the absence of formal research, it would pay off for you to do a little on your own – investigating how much water you and your family are drinking.

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