Staying Hydrated in the Polar Vortex by Stacy Geant Hughes

Updated: Jan 15, 2019



We knew the mild weather was too good to be true; the winter cold is finally here! And with these single digit temperatures comes extra layers, cold hands and feet, and believe it or not, a big risk of dehydration!

The Mayo Clinic enumerates the body functions in which water plays a critical role. Among other things, the kidneys use water to help flush out waste, it controls blood pressure, lubricates joints and regulates body temperature. According to Paige Holm, R.D., water makes up about 60-70% of our total body weight (more for more muscular people) and dehydration is defined as a loss of only 1% of that body weight. Fatal dehydration is a loss of only 9-12% of that water.

While many of us think of dehydration as a risk in the summer months, it can actually be more dangerous in the winter because we aren’t looking for its signs. A 2005 study conducted at the University of New Hampshire found that in cold weather, the thirst sensation can decrease by about 40%! Additionally, you may not realize you are sweating. “In a dry or high-altitude setting, you can have sweat turn right into vapor instead of forming on the skin," says Dr. Ralph E. Holsworth, director of clinical and scientific research for Essentia Water and medical director of Southeast Colorado Hospital in Colorado. "For instance, if you have been skiing and see someone steaming, then their sweat has already turned to water vapor, visualized as steam."

So how can you tell if you are dehydrated? Dr Peter Foote says signs of winter dehydration are the same as in the summer, including flush skin, dry mouth and lips, and a thickening of saliva. One of the best ways to monitor your hydration levels is the look at the color of your urine. Dark yellow pee is a sign of dehydration: Cleveland Clinic says light, straw-colored urine indicates good hydration.

So, be sure to drink plenty of water and eat lots of fruits and vegetables, which in some cases are up to 90% water, so we can embrace, rather than suffer from, this cold weather!


Stacy Geant Hughes, Certified Pilates Instructor, Certified Pink Ribbon Program specializing in post breast cancer surgery rehabilitation, Owner of Core Value Pilates, LLC in Ridgewood, NJ , (201) 638-0245

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