Defend Yourself From Heat Illness: Stay Hydrated

— Written By Christine Smith and last updated by

It is July in Wayne County and we don’t need to listen to a weatherman in the morning to know it is going to be hot outside. Ever feel you are just so thirsty you will never be able to quench your thirst? Feel like you have been walking through a desert for hours?   Constantly having a dry mouth is something you don’t want to experience, especially with the high temperatures we have been experiencing these last couple of weeks. This so called dry mouth can have dangerous repercussions.

This feeling as many of you know is called dehydration, which occurs when your body loses water faster than it should. This means that you are not drinking enough fluids to keep up with your body’s output via sweating, etc. Staying hydrated is the number one factor in protecting yourself from the heat and heat related illnesses. A hydrated person is better equipped to cool themselves off by sweating, unlike dehydrated individuals who can’t produce adequate sweat. Sweating is important because it is your body’s cooling mechanism. Your body is cooled by the sweat evaporating off your body releasing your body’s heat.

Don’t wait until you’re thirsty to get hydrated, by then it is too late. You have already begun experiencing the first sign of dehydration- dry mouth and throat. Other symptoms of dehydration include a decrease in urination and feeling dizzy when standing. Dizziness, weakness, and fatigue can be brought on by even a mild case of dehydration, which is a loss of as little as 1 to 2 percent of body weight.

In order to stay adequately hydrated an average adult should consume about two liters (8 – 8 ounce glasses) of water each day. In cases of extreme heat, drinking two to four 8-ounce glasses of cool fluid each hour will keep you hydrated. The best way to defeat dehydration is take preventative measures when the temperature outside becomes extreme. Follow these simple tips to help keep you hydrated.

  • Drink plenty of fluids if you know you will be exposed to extreme temperatures. Water is the number one choice for hydration. But, if excessive sweating occurs (for those playing sports or exercising), sports drinks may be their first choice. When excessive sweating occurs the body loses salt and minerals which can be replenished via sports drinks.
  • When exercising in high temperatures be sure to consume two to four 16-32 ounces of cool fluids each hour, and wear lightweight, loose-fitting clothing
  • Abstain from consuming alcohol, and drinks with caffeine or large amounts of sugar they can cause your body to lose more water.
  • Limit the amount of time you are exposed to the heat. Avoid the heat of the middle of the day and schedule activities for the morning or evening hours.

It is important to know – If you are planning on doing heavy exercise or are training and fear you might be losing too much body weight in water, there is a simple way to check. Monitoring your hydration level is important during training especially in hot weather conditions. All you have to do is weigh yourself every morning after you have used the bathroom. If you weigh a few pounds less than you did the prior morning you are more than likely dehydrated. Knowing this information and drinking extra water before exercising to re-hydrate your body will help you during your training phase.

Heat illnesses can be prevented. Protect yourself this summer – stay hydrated!


American Heart Association

Center for Disease Control

FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Safety)

Thoughts to Ponder:

It is difficult to find anything more healthy to drink than good cold water, such as flows down to us from springs and snows of our mountains. This is the beverage we should drink. It should be our drink at all times. ~ Brigham Young

Christine Smith is an Extension Agent in the department of Family & Consumer Sciences with N.C. Cooperative Extension, NCSU,Wayne County. Information on other services available can be found online at or call me at 731-1525 for additional information.

Written By

Photo of Christine SmithChristine SmithExtension Agent, Family and Consumer Sciences (919) 731-1525 christine_smith@ncsu.eduWayne County, North Carolina
Updated on Jul 29, 2014
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