CLARITY SPECIAL SECTION
Summer may be the perfect time to enjoy festivals, gatherings and other outdoor activities, but as temperatures rise so does the risk of becoming dehydrated.
According to the American Heart Association, dehydration can lead to a range of ailments that range from swollen feet and headaches to life-threatening conditions, such as heat stroke. And yes, it is a common occurrence throughout South Florida.
Keeping yourself hydrated during outdoor activities — especially when the weather is hot and humid — is crucial.The human body regulates heat through sweat, and since it is comprised of more than 60 percent water, when fluid levels decrease, we can cause ourselves harm.
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The best way to ensure proper hydration is to drink water — lots of it. Start drinking before exercising or taking off on an outdoor activity. This helps cool your body. The amount of water you will then need throughout the day depends on the kind of activity you’re pursuing, its intensity and the temperature outside.
To avoid dehydration, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends that active people drink at least 16 to 20 ounces of fluid, one to two hours before an outdoor activity. Then follow that by drinking six to 12 ounces every 10 to 15 minutes while outside. People should continue drinking when even after they are finished with an activity.
While drinking water is most important, certain foods also help with their high water content. These include cucumbers, tomatoes, green peppers, cauliflower, iceberg lettuce, watermelon, star fruit, strawberries and cantaloupe.
Other beverages — especially those containing electrolytes such as sodium and potassium — can help also ward off dehydration. Low-calorie sports drinks or coconut water are great options that help replace the sodium and potassium that is lost through sweat.
Not all fluids are equal though. Some drinks, should be avoided altogether when you are trying to stay hydrated. Among them are alcohol and caffeinated beverages, such as coffee, tea and soda, which actually increase the risk of dehydration because they function by pulling fluids from the body.
It is also a good idea to stay away from drinks with high sugar content like fruit juices. These can cause stomach issues, including diarrhea.
“It’s important to know your body and pay attention to certain signs that can tell you when you’re dehydrated,” says Dr. Bobby Kapur, chief of emergency medicine at Jackson Memorial Hospital. “For example, if you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated.”
Other signs of dehydration include headaches, flushed skin, less frequent urination, urine that is dark in color, fatigue, dizziness and dry mouth.
Fortunately, it’s easy to keep from becoming dehydrated. Carry a water bottle with you at all times and refill it often, pack healthy snacks like fruits and vegetables that can help you supplement your fluid intake, and avoid exercising during the hottest times of the day.
Summer is a time for fun activities, like Pride parades. But being outdoors in the heat while drinking alcoholic beverages can also make it a dangerous time. Listen to your body and use common sense. If you feel overheated, take a break in a cool area. And if you start to feel ill, remember that Jackson Health System provides world-class care that is welcoming and sensitive to the needs of the LGBTQ community.
Laura A. D’Ovidio
Jackson Health Systems
Corporate Partner Member of the Miami-Dade Gay & Lesbian Chamber of Commerce