HealthCheck

Drink lots of water - in winter, too

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Feeling tired, sluggish in this cold weather? It may not the winter blues, but a matter of not drinking enough water.

Cold weather studies at the University of New Hampshire show that dehydration may be an even bigger risk in the winter as in the hotter - but more humid - winter months.

We can lose 1 to 2 liters of water a day just by breathing, especially if outdoors. Our body has to warm and humidify the air we breathe, and with outdoor humidity around 20%, a lot of moisture is being drawn out.

According to UNH researchers, outdoor workers and those who exercise in the cold can easily lose 3-8% of their body fluid mass.

Yet, our thirst sensation doesn't occur as quickly, and isn't as pronounced, in the cold. That was documented in a 2005 study UNH researchers published in the journal Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise.

They found out that while the body constricts blood flow to the extremities in the cold to decrease heat loss, the volume around our core stays the same - unlike summer, when it decreases in a bid to cool us down. Without that decrease, the thirst triggger isn't activated as quickly.

Studies for the military show soldiers not getting enough water in winter show fatigue, a sullen attitude, and diminished strength for exertion - symptoms very similar to the winter blues.

EAT FOR WARMTH

There are a few foods which can boost your body warmth, at least a little.

*Ginger contains compounds gingerol and shagaol which increase circulation.

*Chili pepper- a spicy dish certainly warms you up fast, but even a shake of red pepper flakes can help.

*Green tea contains caffeine and catechins, which increase circulation.

PROTECTING CHILDREN

They want to wear shorts to school, even in winter. But doctors say kids feel the cold just like adults do - and they are more vulnerable to its dangers.

Doctors say kids - especially little ones - are more prone to heat loss and hypothermia when they aren't bundled up.

That doesn't mean they have to look like little astronauts. There are many warm, yet light clothes, which will protect your kids, especially in layers, but are easier to move in.

In general, dress your kids as you would, though add an extra layer for the little ones. They can't regulate their body temperatures as well as older children and adults.

Make sure all of the extremities - nose, ears, hands, feet, and heads - are well-covered. Polyester fleece, merino wool, and other synthetic materials trap heat and absorb moisture. Limit cotton clothes, because it retains moisture, making your child feel cold.

Allow kids to peel off layers when they feel warm, but make sure the layers go back on when they head outdoors. There will be 100 degrees difference between their body temperature and the outdoor air tomorrow, so they will lose body heat quickly, and can fall into hypothermia fast.

Now, back to those stubborn kids who don't want to wear a coat? They may think they are asserting their independence. And older kids may think coats, hats, or gloves aren't cool. But child experts say this is the time for parents to enforce their authority.

PROTECTING BABY

For babies, hats are the number one necessity. A cap which totally covers the ears is a must in extreme cold. Ones that fasten under the chin are easier to keep in place.

Until babies are walking, a warm coat is good for the top, with a fleece or blanket for the legs.

Thick coats should come off before baby is strapped into a car seat; the coat will interfere with the fit and could make the harness too loose.

If you can, wear your baby against your body in a sling or carrier; it will be warmer than a stroller.

Have a blanket ready to throw over her for extra warmth.

And though it sounds like hot weather advice, make sure you are drinking enough water. You lose a lot of moisture in your breath in winter, especially outside. The water is essential helps your body regulate its temperature.

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