With a shocking being in a constant state of dehydration it goes without saying that it’s a nationwide concern, but it’s also a global concern. This is why it’s important to know that dehydration can follow anyone anywhere – even if it’s a colder climate or country. Usually, we are warned during the sweltering heat of summer about the risks of dehydration so it comes as no surprise that most people don’t know that you can get dehydrated in cold weather as well.
While most people associate colder weather with staying warm and cozy inside, plenty of people head outdoors for work, fun, or for a variety of other reasons. From skiing to hiking to shoveling snow, dehydration can sneak up on anyone – which is why it’s necessary to know its risks before heading outdoors, and some tips on staying properly hydrated in any cold weather scenario. With that being said, there are many things to keep in mind when it comes to dehydration and staying hydrated in colder temperatures.
Knowing the risks, signs, and symptoms of dehydration
Colder climates can be great to visit or live in – with the mountains, snow and crisp cool air, places such as Alaska, Norway, Russia, and Iceland are all be beautiful places. If you already experience harsh winters where you live, you may already know all too well that dry, cotton mouth feeling that comes with the cold air of winter weather. But if you’re used to sunny weather all year round, a visit to colder climates may bring winter coats to mind, and most likely not dehydration. Knowing the risks of dehydration in cold winter climates can help you to better prepare and ward off the dangers that can come with being dehydrated in lower temperatures.
The risks and symptoms of dehydration can range from mild to downright terrifying, and can become severe quickly when not tended to, just like when it comes to dehydration in hot weather. However, It’s necessary to understand that dry mouth, sweating, headaches, and all other dehydration related symptoms are not just limited to hot weather conditions.
In fact, cold and freezing temperatures play a major factor in how quickly you can become dehydrated, and so it’s vital to know that they can impose other conditions as well, such as hypothermia – in addition to dehydration – when you’ve stayed outside far too long. The truth is, our bodies need to stay hydrated no matter what kind of climate we’re in, and doing so can not only keep you healthy, but can make you feel on top of your game, no matter what you’re doing outside on that cold and harsh winter day.
How the cold can dehydrate you
It might seem baffling how one can get dehydrated when it’s cold, and the scary thing is that you might not even realize it when it’s happening. While hot summer days may cause you to sweat through your clothes, you might be surprised to know that you sweat in cold temperatures as well. You might not even realize that you’re sweating because your sweat will evaporate so quickly in cold and dry climates, meaning it can go almost undetected that you’re losing fluids – which can quickly put you on the fast track to dehydration. However, this isn’t the only way you can lose fluids in weather like this. Dry, frigid temperatures can act almost silently when it comes to dehydration, so much so that even the fog (which is actually water vapor) you see when you breathe through your nose or mouth is a sign that you’re losing fluids and moisture.
Dehydration can occur easily when you’re out in the cold weather, and there are other signs to watch out for as well. For example, it’s not uncommon to not feel thirsty at all when you’re out in such temperatures. Due to the cold, your brain is seemingly deceived into thinking you’re just fine and don’t need to hydrate – but that’s never the case in these situations,
especially if you’re outside and physically exerting yourself. While it’s commonly known that staying hydrated is a must, this holds especially true when you’re out and about doing physical exercise or other activities that require your body to stay moving – even if you’re just doing something as simple as taking a walk.
Staying hydrated even though it’s cold
Amongst the many reasons to be outside in the cold, participating in a winter sport is definitely one of them. While winter sports can be a great way to stay fit and get some fresh air, staying hydrated is still a must – especially with all of that physical exercise. While you might not feel thirsty when you’re out snowmobiling at top speed skiing, or ice-skating, it’s still very necessary to keep your fluid intake up, as you’ll be losing water constantly while you’re active. However, this may come off as a bit challenge, since the need to drink can easily slip your mind, either because you’re not experiencing thirst, or because you’re immersed in the sport. This makes it important to set designated and regular break times to drink some water – even if it means setting an alarm on your watch or phone in order to remember.
While cold, icy water may sound great on a hot and sweaty day, that might not sound appealing when temperatures dip below freezing. Instead, keeping hydrated with hot tea, hot chocolate, and room temperature (or warm) water before you go out into the cold can be a great alternative when it comes to being sure you’re consuming plenty of fluids. Taking a full insulated thermos along with you is an even better idea, especially if you’re planning on being out for a while – just make sure you’re bringing a
sufficient amount, as you should be drinking often. However, there are multiple other ways to stay hydrated while it’s cool out.
Eating plays a major role in your hydration as well, and picking the right foods to consume can greatly have a positive contribution to your fluid intake. While water-enriched foods like fruit are always a great choice, hot soups can also do wonders – especially if they contain a low-sodium broth. It’s also crucial to take in electrolytes, so having an electrolyte drink or two on hand is a great way to replenish the nutrients you’ve lost.
It’s also worth mentioning how important it is to pay attention to your fluid intake and balance it out so that you’re not solely intaking just water (as water doesn’t contain the electrolytes you’ll need). A great way of doing this is to rotate between your different options – and doing so can ensure you’re getting the proper nourishment and hydration.
Are you hydrated enough?
When it comes to knowing the signs of how hydrated you are, your urine can say a lot. Generally speaking, urine that is paler in color indicates a healthy level of hydration, whereas darker urine indicates dehydration – the darker it is, the more severely dehydrated you are.
However, you shouldn’t have too much of a hard time when it comes to knowing if you’re dehydrated or not; if you begin to
experience headaches, dry mouth, or any of the other typical signs of dehydration, you should take it as a sign that you need to be drinking more.
Keeping track of your fluid intake is a great idea to ensure that you’re staying properly hydrated, and there are many products out there that can assist with that. Water bottles marked with times of the day can encourage you to drink regularly and more often – because even when you aren’t thirsty, you should drink. While setting alarms can also be helpful, so can the use of the buddy system if you’re out in the cold with a friend. After all, two heads are better than one.
What to wear
Snow boots? Check. Heavy winter coat? Check. In colder climates, your number one thought is most likely going to be putting in the effort to staying warm and retaining body heat. Though while it’s quite commonplace to get decked out in your heaviest winter gear when you go outside into freezing temperatures, what you wear can actually play a part in you becoming dehydrated more quickly. Because the snow boots, heavy coat, and other outerwear can weigh you down and make it a bit more work to maneuver, it means that your body is going to be going through more physical exertion by carrying the weight, which in turn leads to sweating, fluid loss, and a heightened risk of dehydration.
Due to this, it’s important to wear equally warm – but thinner – winter gear that can retain body heat without being so heavy and bulky. Many people achieve this by wearing jackets lined with fleece or filled with down feathers, which allow them to move with ease and stay warm without the added bulk and weight.
With dehydration being an ongoing and widespread issue, it’s important to be properly educated on the fact that dehydration can happen anywhere, at any time, and in any climate – even in freezing temperatures. By wearing the right clothes, drinking plenty of water, and replenishing your electrolytes, you’re sure to steer clear of the dangers of dehydration and enjoy your time outside.
Jacob Hatch is the author and founder of Hydration Anywhere. He has been actively writing about drinking water since 2013. These days Jacob spends most of his time investigating water related news, studying environmental issues, reading health studies, and reviewing products like water bottles and water filters.