Water vital during hot summer weather Unless they are thirsty, people usually take water for granted during the summer time, said Carol Pitts, Extension food safety and nutrition specialist at South Dakota State University.
"Dehydration can be dangerous if left untreated. Drinking plenty of fluids is important during the summertime, especially for those people working outside," she said.
"Thirst is actually a symptom of dehydration," said Pitts. "It's important that we drink enough water before, during and after working outside or playing outdoors."
Water plays a number of important roles in the body. "Water regulates temperature, it carries nutrients and oxygen to the cells, it emits wastes, cushions our joints and protects organs and tissues," said Pitts.
"Water is the most abundant substance in our body," she said. "The adult body's weight is 55 to 75 percent water, that means each person contains about 10 to 12 gallons of water."
Also, the leaner a person is, the higher the proportion of water in his or her body. "In the lean person, muscle tissue is about 73 percent water where body fat is only 25 percent water," she said.
"As we get older, our ability to sweat declines as does our ability to feel thirsty," she commented.
Other factors put people at a higher risk for dehydration, such as excessive perspiring, obesity and certain medications.
Water is expelled from the body by the skin as perspiration. Working or playing outdoors in hot weather increases perspiration and water exhaled by the body, said the specialist.
She said the human body needs approximately eight to 12 glasses of water or some type of fluid per day to maintain healthy, adequate hydration.
"Some of the new research is saying we may not have to be quite as concerned about caffeine as we have in the past," reported Pitts. "However, it is important to remember that beverages containing caffeine sometimes may be more dehydrating than hydrating."
Those types of drinks may include coffee or sodas with caffeine, tea, beer, wine, or anything that has a diuretic effect on the body.
"A person consuming those beverages should drink other fluids along with them," she recommended. "It doesn't mean avoid them, it's just important to include extra fluids if we're using those types of beverages in our diet."
Pitts said sports drinks are not indicated for stopping dehydration, but they can provide some minerals and salts that some may feel is important depending on their particular job or activity.
For additional information on dehydration, check with your local Cooperative Extension office or your local healthcare professional.