This was the startled reaction of a mother of 8, who had just been told to prevent dehydration in her son when he was brought for fever and cold. She wanted him to recover soon as he was scheduled to attend a one-week football camp.
Dehydration is always identified with vomiting, diarrhea, food poisoning, dysentery, hot summers etc. True! This dehydration can and does prove fatal in a large number. All the same one can get dehydrated even during winter months and that too without any vomiting and/or loosies!
Following are some of the ways one can get dehydrated in winter:
- During winter it is very easy to become dehydrated. Besides loss of fluid from daily activities, outdoor sports can cause as much dehydration as usually sun shines brightly even during winter. Additionally, factors like cold dry air, chilly wind, inadequate fluid intake, sweating all contribute to dehydration; so much so even a bout of shivering causes some amount of dehydration.
- Preteens and teenagers, especially those who play/participate in sports are more susceptible as they are too busy playing and do not replace body fluids lost due to sweating; plus they are not experienced enough to identify the warning signs of dehydration.
- A lot of kids go trekking/ hiking; these kids lose water and precious salt due to unaccustomed exertion and sweating. All such kids should be proactively hydrated before the first sign of dehydration (dark concentrated urine) appears.
- Dehydration is speedier when weather is cold and/or at higher altitudes since the air we breathe is drier.
- It helps to know that our body loses water even through normal breathing and not just through skin; meaning that we need to drink more water even if we breathing fast (unaccustomed long walks). Things get more difficult as we don’t feel as thirsty in winter and forget to consume fluids.
- Spending too much time with kids, walking through air-conditioned malls (and that too in winter) necessitates proactive water consumption.
- In the winter, be careful the kids are not gulping large quantities of fluid at once, as this could chill them. It is best to make them take small sips frequently.
- Older children should be told to avoid caffeine-containing drinks (coffee/colas) as they cause more urination and subsequent dehydration.
- If you are with the kids, monitor the frequency, quantity and color of their urine (tell older ones to do so). If a child does not feel the urge to empty bladder for several hours it’s a sure sign he/she is already in semi-dehydration.
- When they pass urine, it should be light yellow to clear in colour; a strong yellow color (turmeric colour) is one of the best indicators of a need for better hydration.
- Remember, the fact that by the time your child feels thirsty and asks for water, he/she is already 3% dehydrated.
- If partaking in sports/games, ensure water is consumed before, during and after exercise.
- One rule of thumb is to aim to drink at least an equivalent of 30 times our body weight in kilograms; i.e. a 50 kg person must have at least 1500 ml of water. Juices, soups, milk add to fluid consumption for the day.
Coffee (with Grande cups offering 300+ ml) consumed should not be counted as it is dehydrating.
And lastly why should we worry for this subtle dehydration?
It leads to complaints of fatigue, restlessness and drop in physical as well as mental performance levels.
Keep yourself and your kid well hydrated, even in winter!
Dr Chander Asrani, father to three daughters and grand father to one, is a post-graduate in Family Medicine. He has over 35 years in clinical practice, launched www.growingwell.com in 2000 and since then has been writing on various subjects. Know more about him at about.me/drasrani.