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Preventing Dehydration in Winter

If you’re not careful, it’s very easy to become dehydrated in the winter particularly if you’re engaged in sports like snowshoeing, backcountry skiing or mountaineering. Under these conditions, it’s not enough to be on the lookout for yellow pee; you need to hydrate before exertion and regularly during all outdoor activities.

Dehydration is accelerated in cold weather or at higher altitudes because the air we breath is drier. Normally, people lose between one to two quarts of water a day via evaporation from the lungs. When we breathe, our bodies humidify dry air and heat it up to our body’s temperature, which is why your exhalations look like fog in cold weather.

In cold weather, your body has to work harder to humidify the air you breathe and to warm it up, meaning that you need to drink more water and eat more if you are outdoors. A good rule of thumb is to drink at least 4 quarts a day, but many people will drink twice that under high exertion levels or over 10,000 feet of altitude.

Psychologically, it’s easy to skip hydration breaks during winter activities because you are less likely to feel thirsty. But the consequences are much higher, as dehydration can accelerate hypothermia, frostbite or fatigue.Therefore, you need to pace yourself accordingly and drink and eat at frequent intervals to keep up with the demands of your body. I always carry a watch with me outdoors, and make a habit to drink and eat at regular intervals.


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5 Responses to Preventing Dehydration in Winter

  1. lostalot January 19, 2009 at 5:14 am #

    Really? Prevent dehydration by drinking more? Does this really warrant an article? How about a low freezing temp hydration drink; anybody have a formula? And there are specialized masks that catch the moisture from exhalations and add it to inhalations. I tried one long ago and didn't care for it. And I've read that a vapor barrier layer in clothing will lessen perspiration in winter. Gotta give that a try.

  2. Earlylite January 19, 2009 at 2:41 pm #

    Actually it does warrant an article because so many people succumb to it, even those who should know better. Happened to me today, in fact.

  3. Navin December 11, 2009 at 8:40 am #

    I live in Wisconsin and I grew up in India in 115 degree weather. It took me almost 6 years to figure our that your body is feeling thirsty in the winter. It is counter intuitive to drink cold water in the winter; in fact, you can't drink much. As I start examining this phenomena, I realized this is an epidemic and leads to many other problems in the winter especially among children and elderly.

    Once I started consuming electrolytes life has changed. I only drink electrolytes in the winter not summer. In summer I drink water.

  4. poppi April 30, 2010 at 1:29 am #

    if we all just listen to our docs we would be fine. forget about masks and fancy clothes just drink well


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