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NEWS | Oct. 5, 2022

Water: It’s NOT Just for Summer Anymore

BLUF: Dehydration can occur even in cold weather.

Soldier hiking in winter
Photo by Pvt. Ethan Scofield

This article initially appeared in PS 734, p. 56 (Jan 14).

You know about the most common dangers posed by cold winter weather:

Frostbite, the freezing of body tissue caused by exposure to freezing temperatures.
Hypothermia, the lowering of core body temperature.

But there’s also a third danger that occurs in cold weather, one that’s often overlooked. It’s dehydration, the loss of bodily fluids. It occurs when you lose more fluid than you take in. Lose enough and your body can’t carry out its normal functions.
We usually think of dehydration as something that takes place during the hot summer months. But you can get dehydrated any time of the year. Labor long and hard enough in cold winter weather and you’ll lose fluids. We just don’t give much thought to drinking lots of water when we’re out in the cold.
Here are the typical causes of dehydration…

  • Not drinking enough water
  • Severe diarrhea
  • Vomiting
  • High fever
  • Too much sweating
  • Increased urination

Symptoms of dehydration range from mild to moderate to severe, depending on fluid loss. Here are the symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration:

  • Dry mouth and lips
  • Fatigue
  • Thirst
  • Decreased urination
  • Dry skin
  • Headache
  • Dizziness
  • Lightheadedness
  • Constipation

Left untreated, mild to moderate dehydration can worsen to severe dehydration. Here are the symptoms:

  • Dry mouth
  • Intense thirst
  • Lack of sweating
  • Lack of urination
  • Extremely dark urine
  • Confusion
  • Dry skin that lacks elasticity and doesn’t “bounce back” when pinched
  • Low blood pressure
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Rapid breathing

If you’re severely dehydrated, seek medical care at once

  • Drink water before you become thirsty
  • Eat foods with high water content, such as fruits and vegetables.
  • Pay attention to your body and recognize signs of thirst.
  • if you’re exercising, hiking or doing physical work, drink plenty of water even if you don’t feel thirsty.
Connie Rodd with canteen
Sip, don't gulp water to help prevent dehydration
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