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Winter Dehydration? It's real, and it's bad

Updated: Feb 13, 2021

To let you know, in a past life I was a neonatal therapist, and I didn't know much if anything about adult dehydration. Infants, yes, but adults? I always thought "well hell, just drink more water."

I learned better. We initially opened Rapid Recovery after a trip to Vegas that took a bad turn into a ditch until Nick (my casino host at Caesar's) sent me to get an IV. I felt AWESOME and decided to open an IV place in Shreveport. We thought we'd be a hangover clinic. Little did we know, about half of our patients ended up simply being dehydrated, whether from illness or work or falling asleep in the sun.

But still, we were really busy in the summer, but not so much in the winter. We assumed it was because people were dehydrated from the summer heat. Figured that in the winter nobody got dehydrated.

You really get to spend plenty of time with each patient in the winter because there are fewer of you. Guess what we learned from talking to them? They were all just plain dehydrated. In the winter. I was shocked. That was 4 years ago. Since then I've learned a LOT about winter dehydration, and turns out, it's not only a thing, you're more likely to be dehydrated in the winter than you are in the summer. Crazy.


1) You aren't aware of your sweat. When it's hot, believe it or not, the sweat is stickier and stays on your skin, and you're aware of it. The dry air when it's cold makes it far less uncomfortable and recognizable. You're losing water, you just don't know it. Cold air and tons of clothing make it far less likely that you'll see/conceptualize that you're sweating, and so you don't think "oh hell, I better get some water."

2) When you BREATHE (no kidding) you're exhaling moisture. Ever "see your breath"? OF COURSE you have. That's moisture. Coming out of your body. Dehydrating you.

3) You feel "cool" or even "cold", so psychologically no matter how much water you're losing you don't rationalize that you are in fact getting dehydrated. Oil field workers, landscapers, roofers, athletes, et al, rush into our place for IVs like we're giving them away free in the summer. They almost never come in during the winter until they're BAD. By the time they get to us they often need two bags of fluids instead of one. That's almost dehydrated to the point of danger.

4) Your body knows when it's dehydrated, NORMALLY. The thirst trigger that happens when electrolyte (salts, basically) concentration levels in your blood are higher because there's less water in your system, don't function as well in cold weather. Typically you'll be 25-50% more sensitive to thirst when your body is not cold. So, you drink, and alleviate any chance of dehydration. When your body is low on water and your thirst mechanism doesn't kick in during cold weather it's up to YOU to realize that you need to drink more to keep from becoming dehydrated, and most of us just don't do it.

5) When your body temperature drops vessel constriction also keeps you from "feeling thirsty". You don't even realize you're getting dehydrated.

So, how do you know if you're dehydrated?

1) It's gross, but does your urine look like orange juice or lemonade? That's a dead giveaway. If it's clear or only slightly tinted, you're likely fine.

2) Just as important as coloration, how often are you going to the restroom? Ever think "man, I usually have to go a few times a day and I don't think I've gone at all today"? That simply means your body is not producing urine, because there's not enough water in your system to do so. You're dehydrated.

3) Are your lips chapped? This is the one everyone thinks is a scam. "Of course my lips are chapped. It's winter." Well, your lips are chapped because the air is dry, your skin isn't, and you're (wait for it) DEHYDRATED.

4) Headache? Less fluid leads to vasoconstriction. Imagine all the vessels trying to pump oxygenated blood throughout your brain, only they're constricted. That causes a throbbing you call a headache. Sure sign you're dehydrated.

5) Have little muscle twitches? Those could be from a buildup of lactic acid, or maybe higher electrolyte concentrations in the blood going to your muscles, which happen when there isn't sufficient water in your system.

So what can you do?

Well, it's fairly obvious. Water, water, water. To determine how much water you need there's a simple formula devised by Dr. Jack Dybes in Chicago. Take your body weight in pounds, divide that number by 2, and that's the number of ounces of water you need to drink a day. So, a 160 pound man should drink 80 ounces of water a day. A 140 pound woman should have 70 ounces of water a day. I'm willing to bet that you aren't getting close to that. Especially in the winter.

"What about all the electrolytes and replacing what I've lost?" Fine question. Though it might help keep you from needing an IV at Rapid Recovery, we'll give you a tip. (1) Sports drinks are worthless. (2) Pedialyte is better (though your entire water requirement SHOULD NOT be Pedialyte - make sure it's no more than 1/4 of your consumed water), but it's still not everything you need. (3) The best "home remedy" is some nasty tasting stuff you can buy at Walgreen's called DripDrop. They make it in a few flavors and they're all equally crappy tasting, but it's really "good for your body" stuff. Costs about 10 bucks and is well worth it, especially if it can save you a $150 trip to see us. You'll have to stay on top of it, and you can't be too far gone once you start, but it really helps. Read the label and you'll see that DripDrop (I should get a commission for costing myself business like this) has more good stuff in it than an Easter basket, and for the small cost it can be a real life-saver.

All that said, if you're to the point of consistent headaches, muscle spasms, or your urine just won't clear up, then look up to the top of this page, click "Book Now", and we'll see you when you get here.

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