Debunking myths behind dehydration
by KEITH OSHIMA
While most people link dehydration to the hot summer weather, it can also occur in winter at cold temperatures and may have adverse effects on the body.
According to unh.edu, dehydration is not as common in the winter as it is in the summer because more people stay indoors. However, the risk of dehydration for people who spend more time outside in the cold weather is high because they are not as thirsty as they are in hot weather, causing them to drink less water.
Other reasons behind dehydration in cold weather include the significant loss of respiratory fluids in the body through breathing, the increased amount energy exerted by the body due to the weight of extra clothing and the quick evaporation of sweat in cold, dry air.
The human body is heavily reliant on water, which makes up 50 to 60 percent of it, according to usgs.gov Therefore, long exposure to the cold air and temperature can be detrimental to one’s body; the brain and kidneys are the first organs to be affected.
According to huffingtonpost.com, lack of water may reduce oxygen flow to the brain or temporarily shrink neurons, causing loss of memory, confusion, headaches and mood instability.
The kidneys, which are crucial in regulating water balance and blood pressure as well as removing waste from the body, can undergo acute renal failure as a result of dehydration. In this condition, the kidneys stop functioning and blood flow slows down.
In cold weather, the heart has to work harder than normal; when dehydrated, the stress placed on it drastically increases. The heart pumps warm blood throughout the body faster in order to maintain the body’s core temperature, according to bhf.org. However, dehydration causes blood volume to decrease; as a result, the heart must work harder to pump the reduced amount of blood and deliver enough oxygen to cells.
The skin and muscles are also affected by the cold, although not as seriously as the other organs in the body.
Dehydrated muscles tire much more easily when the body is dehydrated, cramping and contracting more often. This is because during dehydration, the body prioritizes and sends nutrients to more important parts of the body, according to nih.gov. The same is true for skin; in cold weather, however, low humidity leads to dry skin, thus increasing the rate of the process.
Whether the weather is hot or cold, dehydration is a serious issue that everyone may need to think about the next time they decide to skip the ever-helpful drink of water.