Dehydration is mainly thought of as a danger during hot summers, but it is actually still a serious concern during the cold winter. It is widely accepted that it is easy to become dehydrated during the summer and we are trained to look for the signs. But during the winter these signs are not as apparent, meaning that we may be at an even greater risk.
What causes dehydration during the winter?
Everyone is aware of how much we sweat during the summer; on particularly hot days it can feel as though we may have lost a significant amount of water. Here lies part of the problem, during the cold winter sweat evaporates more rapidly in the cold dry air. Without the sweat lingering on our skin, we may not notice how much water we are actually losing. As a result, we do not actively seek to replenish our water levels, like we traditionally would in the hot summer.
As mentioned previously the dry air can deceive us as to how much we are sweating. But it also causes us to lose more water through breathing, than we would during the summer. On a cold day you are able to see the moisture in your breath condensing in front of you, that is water you are losing! The lack of moisture in the air also draws any water out of your skin, this is why our skin or lips feel particularly dry and sensitive in the cold winter, as they are lacking any moisture.
Lack of thirst
Our levels of thirst are always much more apparent in the hot summers. Being stuck in a stuffy room or squeezing onto public transport will always leaves us wishing we had a nice cold drink. But during the winter it is common for your thirst response to not be as active in the cold winter, this is purely a physiological response to cold weather. If people don’t feel thirsty, then they are less likely to drink, and this can eventually contribute to dehydration.
Trying to stay warm
Simply trying to stay warm can lead to dehydration. Heavy coats and multiple layers of clothing are often the norm, in an attempt to help us brave the cold. But this extra weight makes it harder to move and makes the simplest of tasks more physically demanding. When our body is moving, we use water and energy from food to power our muscles. So, by working harder we are required to use more water.
Lack of awareness
All of these causes can contribute to a lack of awareness of how much water we are losing. They are all subtle and less obvious than the way we lose water in the summer. We have become trained to associate the dehydration with: hot weather, feeling thirsty and sweating. But when we remove all of those conditions, we don’t recognise that dehydration is still a risk. If we are not actively trying to maintain our water levels and prevent dehydration then we are going to be susceptible to it.
To stay hydrated this winter, make sure that you are aware of how much water you are drinking and let’s not wait until we feel thirsty before we reach for a glass of water or a hot drink.
Office Beverages can provide hot & cold drinks solutions, to help you to stay hydrated this winter, get in touch to find out more.
BBC News (N.D) “How to deal with the winter” Available here: (https://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/articles/5sm4cv6SNYYS9wpz9Hd2QCH/seven-ways-to-deal-with-winter)
NHS (N.D) “Dehydration” Available here: (https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/dehydration/)
Lanza M (2003) “Winter hiking and camping: Managing cold for comfort and safety”
Medica (N.D) “Why we feel less thirsty in the cold” Available here: (https://www.medica-tradefair.com/en/News/Archive/Why_We_Feel_Less_Thirsty_in_the_Cold)
Ithca Journal (2016) Koch D “Dehydration is a risk even during the winter” Available here:(https://eu.ithacajournal.com/story/news/2016/11/16/dehydration-risk-even-during-winter/93989536/)