There's nothing better than an ice cold drink on a hot summer's day, but sometimes we get so busy enjoying the sunshine that we forget to indulge in this simple pleasure. Next thing you know, you've gone hours without drinking any water, and you're slightly dehydrated. If you're under the impression that dehydration is no big deal, think again, my friend. It could totally ruin your otherwise fun days in the sun.
At the Human Performance Laboratory at the University of Connecticut, two studies were conducted proving that even the most mild kind of dehydration can screw up your energy level, affect your mood, and rob you of the ability to think clearly. The researchers also found that the negative effects of mild dehydration were "substantially greater in females than in males," which means we need to be especially careful. The even scarier part is that the urgent feelings of thirst don't kick in until we're already one or two percent dehydrated, when the dehydration has already started to affect us.
That's why it's important to be proactive about hydration and keep a water bottle handy, even if we're not highly active every second of the day. Doctors recommend you aim for eight, 8-ounce glasses a day, though if you're sweating or drinking alcohol in the heat, you're going to need more to compensate for what you're losing.
Here are 11 signs of dehydration to watch out for this summer.
1. Your Breath Is Stinky
Sounds gross, but one of the first effects dehydration has on your body is that it prevents you from making enough saliva. "If you’re not producing enough saliva in the mouth, you can get bacteria overgrowth," John Higgins, M.D., associate professor of cardiovascular medicine at the University of Texas in Houston, told Everyday Health. Too much bacteria equals too many unpleasant scents, so if you notice your bad breath, rinse your mouth out and get some water in you, stat.
2. Your Skin Is Dry And Cracked
Your skin doesn't waste any time in letting you know that you don't have enough fluids in your system. It might look irritated, taut and tight, rough, flaky, or cracked. All of this is a result of the stratum corneum, the outermost layer of the skin, being robbed of the moisture it needs. This can happen to anyone, regardless of how oily you think your skin is, because it's all about a lack of water, not a lack of oil.
3. You're Peeing Less Than 6 Times A Day
If you don't have enough water beneath the surface of your skin, you can bet that you don't have enough fluids to excrete from your bladder. On average, a healthy person pees about six to eight times a day, sometimes even 10 times if they're staying properly hydrated. If you're nowhere close to that mark, or you simply can't remember the last time you went for a tinkle, take it as a very serious sign that you need to drink up.
4. Your Pee Is A Dark Yellow Color
Here's a good rule to generally live by: The clearer your pee is, the better. On a good day, your urine is supposed to be a light shade of yellow, although you should be shooting for totally clear. When you're dehydrated, your body gives you a heads up by presenting you with any dark shades of yellow. Anything that resembles champagne means you've crossed over into five percent dehydrated territory, but when your pee is orange, you're past five percent and treading in dangerous waters, so it's probably time to see a medical provider.
5. You've Got Muscle Cramps
There are a few different reasons your might feel cramps in your muscles in relation to dehydration. For one, the lack of electrolytes, such as potassium and sodium, can cause your muscles to seize up suddenly. Also, because of the stress your body is under, your muscles have to work extra hard to keep you going, so they end up cramping up from all the drama. Finally, the heat itself will make your muscles tighten up if your body isn't hydrated enough.
6. Your Head Is Pounding
The tissue in your brain actually loses water when you haven't been drinking enough H2O. Next, the pain receptors in your head fire off and you've got a splitting headache. Another similar reaction to dehydration is that the blood flow to your head is reduced, which also exacerbates any headache you might be experiencing. As soon as you feel any discomfort in your noggin, you should start sipping slowly on some water to relieve the pain.
7. You're Constipated
Not having enough water in your system affects all the internal organs and your digestion. Because your large intestines are being deprived of fluids, they will start to absorb the liquid in your stool, which makes it very difficult to poop out your waste later. A combination of water and fiber should help you go to the bathroom in this case, but just make sure you're not eating or taking fiber without the H2O, as that will only cause your stool to harden more and make it harder for you to poop.
8. Your Mouth Is Dry And Sticky
If you're dehydrated, your mouth and your tongue especially will start to feel very dry. You may find yourself licking your lips or swallowing more often than usual, all in an attempt to moisten the inside of your mouth. This happens because the absence of water causes pretty much everything, including your mucous membranes and the inside of your cheeks, to get dry.
9. You Have Strong Cravings For Sweets
Your overall nutrition suffers when you're dehydrated. For example, your liver doesn't have enough water in order to release glycogens, a type of glucose that helps you keep your energy levels up, and as a result, you have a weird hankering for certain foods that will give you a boost of vitality, even if it's a fake one. Enter your cravings for lots and lots of sugar. There's nothing wrong with answering this calling, as long as you go about in a smart way.
Reach for fruits and veggies that naturally have a lot of water in them, like watermelon, celery, cantaloupe or honeydew, and cucumber. Be sure to pair your snack with a tall glass (or two) of water.
10. You Feel Dizzy And Have The Chills
Without enough water, your blood pressure drops, which could make you feel a bit ill. You might feel feverish, dizzy for no reason, and you could have the chills, similar to how you would feel if you had the flu. These symptoms are amongst the more severe ones, so if they hit you hard, it might be time to get in touch with a doctor to see what the best way is to re-hydrate yourself.
11. You're Unusually Bloated
It may sound counterintuitive, but drinking water actually prevents unwanted bloating. The opposite is true as well. If you don't keep yourself hydrated, you'll end up bloated, all because your body goes into an emergency mode of sorts. It tries its hardest to gather and hold onto as much H2O as possible, resulting in a swollen face and belly, and maybe even enlarged fingers.
The second you encounter sudden bloating, get yourself to the kitchen and fill up your water bottle to the brim. Take your time sipping, though. You don't want to shock your system with too much liquid at once. It shouldn't take long to recalibrate everything and get you back to the correctly hydrated, summer-loving version of yourself.