It’s hot outside. Like really hot. Super duper hot. And really humid. Stupid humid. The kind of hot and humid where walking from your front door to your car has you drenched in sweat and feeling miserable.
Welcome to summer, Florida.
While at Universal Studios this past weekend (which was AMAZING by the way) we spent a lot of time outside in the God-awful heat. And we drank a lot of water. Dreamboat and I also drank a lot of Powerade. But we are veterans when it comes to the typical Florida summer heat and humidity. My niece and nephew from Kentucky? Not so much. Joseph got a headache early on and I told him to drink more and put some ice on the back of his neck. Kendall kept complaining about how hot she was too. We stayed on top of our fluid intake on Saturday, but dropped off on Sunday and I’m paying for it now.
Earlier today, as I stopped at the Gate Gas Station to grab a coffee to go, I heard on the radio that the expected highs were going to be mid to high 90s, and with the humidity and heat index it would feel like triple digits. That’s when it hit me: Florida Summer also means “drink more, idiot” summer.
Dehydration is one of the biggest causes for injury and illness during the hottest months of the year, and chances are…you are dehydrated right now. Let’s take a look at what dehydration can do to you and your body, and talk about how to combat it.
Dehydration, as defined by the Mayo Clinic, occurs when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn’t have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don’t replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated. Basically – the more you sweat, the more fluid you lose. The more fluid you lose, the more dehydrated you get. The more dehydrated you get, the more dangerous of a situation you can get in.
So how do you get dehydrated? Working out really hard, especially in the hot weather; being sick and having diarrhea, vomiting, or excessive sweating like when you break a fever, of even just being outside in the hot weather without replenishing your body of fluid.
The signs of dehydration are different depending on how serious the case is. Most cases of dehydration can be reversed by simply drinking some water and/or some kind of sports drink. Here are the differences and signs of the cases of dehydration:
Unfortunately, thirst isn’t always a reliable gauge of the body’s need for water, especially in children and older adults. A better indicator is the color of your urine: Clear or light-colored urine means you’re well hydrated, whereas a dark yellow or amber color usually signals dehydration.
I can tell you how dangerous this can be: The first year I ran the Gate River Run, I ended up with severe dehydration. I stopped at every water stop and had two cups of water each time, but still ended up in the medical tent. I had at one point THREE IV’s going into my body to replenish the fluids lost, and had a body temperature of 104 degrees. It was after this that I learned that my body temperature skyrockets really fast, and I need more than the normal runner to stay hydrated and safe. This is serious, and should not be taken lightly.
Dehydration can lead to serious issues. Minor ones include a heat injury and hypovolemic shock. More serious ones include seizures, kidney failure and coma. With the prevention being as easy as drinking a few extra glasses of water, why risk it?
So does that mean you should not run outside in the hot, hot weather? No, of course not…but it DOES mean that you should be smart about it. Here are a few of the things that I do:
- Grab a hydration flask: I have a 10 ounce hydration flask with a little pocket on it and I carry it all the time, but especially in the hot months of spring and summer here in Florida. Usually those 10 ounces are not enough for a longer run, but it’s something that is perfect for a quick 5k.
- Stash water bottles if there aren’t any fountains: I know where all of the water fountains are for my downtown routes. I also know what restaurants are willing to give me a cup of ice water if I need it. But on the days I run around my home, I need to stash some water bottles that are either entirely frozen and will thaw while I run, or half frozen with some water in them to keep cold. There are three or four places that I stash them, and while it takes a bit of extra time and planning – it’s helpful. I ride out in my car and stash them along my route, and then after my run, I drive back out and grab the bottles from where I stashed them. This has saved me numerous times.
- Drink enough during the day: Today, when I stopped at the Gate Station to get my coffee, I also grabbed two 32 ounce Powerade bottles. (on sale, right now 2 for $2.50!) I’ve already put one down, and I’m working on the second. Part of the reason for this is because I’m still dehydrated from the weekend in Orlando, but the other part is I know that I need to stay hydrated for when I am outside. I sweat a lot, and I know that I lose fluid quickly, so drinking enough during the day is key to my health.
- Cut back on the liquids that don’t help: I tend to not drink as much alcohol during the summer months, and I drink less soda and sweet tea as well. I don’t cut it all out, but I make sure I’m aware of where I am and what the plan is before I order something to drink. If I’m out with my friends in the sunshine, I’ll stick to water or a sports drink, having one or two beers if I feel like it. If we are staying in a bar (with air conditioning) I’d be more inclined to drink a few more beers than water. It’s all about planning.
What are the things that YOU do to stay hydrated in the hot summer months? Have you ever had a scare like I had when I ran the Gate River Run? What advice do you have for those who are scared to run outside in the summer heat?