It’s not all about fluids. You could be forgiven for thinking that the only way to prevent dehydration is to drink fluids. After all, that’s about the only thing that comes to most people’s minds when they’re told to stay hydrated. But fluid intake is only part of staying safe in the heat or doing physically demanding work. In this article, we’ll look at 5 other factors that play a role in keeping your body hydrated.
First off, you do need to hydrate! The human body is around 60% water and you can experience symptoms of dehydration if you lose as little as 2% of that. Just imagine how quickly you could sweat that out working in hot or humid conditions.
Everyone’s body reacts differently, and two workers could have very different reactions to the same conditions and fluid intake levels. So, what’s going on here?
FACTOR 1: Diet and Nutrition
Proper nutrition is important for keeping up your strength and energy levels, but it will also help you stay hydrated. Before you decide to give a low carb diet a try, consider that carbs like oatmeal and whole grain pasts increase your hydration levels. If you eliminate these from your diet, you will need to compensate with extra fluid intake. Soda, energy drinks, and salty foods also contribute to dehydration because they absorb fluids meant for the body. If you’re working out in the sun or have to wear bulky or heavy equipment, try consuming these in moderation.
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FACTOR 2: Alcohol
Now, here’s one kind of fluid intake that might work against you. If you’ve ever had a hangover, you know that the best way to recover is to drink lots of water. Why? Because alcohol is a diuretic and it forces water through your system before it can be absorbed. And just because you don’t drink alcohol on the job or show up to work inebriated doesn’t mean you’re in the clear. Regularly consuming alcohol makes it harder for your body to absorb liquid and stay hydrated even when you’re stone-cold sober.
FACTOR 3: Age
Even if you’re just as strong and spry as your younger co-workers, you might still need to take extra care to prevent hydration as you get older. There are tow things at play here. First, as you get older, your body starts having a harder time retaining water. So, it might take a few more swigs to get to the same level of hydration. Second, the older you are, the less likely you are to feel thirsty, even when your body needs fluids. That means dehydration can set in before you even feel parched. If you’re an older worker, it’s a good idea to track how much liquid you take in instead of relying on cues like thirst.
Lifestyle choices affect how susceptible workers are to dehydration.
FACTOR 4: Altitude
Oxygen levels are lower at higher altitudes. Your body compensates for this by breaking more quickly and deeply. Not everyone realizes that we’re constantly losing some of our body’s water content by breathing it out as vapor. As our body works harder to take in oxygen at higher altitudes, we can lose as much as twice the amount of water we normally do. In addition to changes in our breathing, urine output also tends to increase in higher altitudes. So, the higher you go, the more you need to drink to stay safe.
FACTOR 5: Medication
Taking medication is one of those small thing that can make a really big difference to hydration levels. Taking a pill or two every day might not seem like a big deal, but a range of medication from antihistamines to blood pressure meds can lead to dehydration. If you take any of these, you will need to take in more fluids to keep your body balanced. If you take medications regularly, review your prescription or consult your doctor or pharmacist to find out whether it puts you at added risk of dehydration.
In summary, dehydration makes the body weaker and it can have some dangerous effects. So don’t take chances, make sure you look beyond liquid intake while working and consider all the factors that might prevent your body from absorbing those fluids.