You know you’re supposed to drink eight glasses of water a day, but how much are you really drinking?
Being stingy with the sipping could put you at risk for dehydration, a condition that sets in when your body doesn’t have enough fluids to properly function. Mild cases manifest in dry mouth, but severe dehydration can lead to dangerous problems like seizures or blood clots.
Some symptoms are pretty well-known. For example, most people know it’s a bad sign if they don’t have to visit the bathroom until 2 p.m. and when they do, their urine is a dark yellow. Similarly, dizziness and headaches are often linked to lack of water.
But those aren’t the only signs you should be watching out for. Dehydration can cause more problems than you might think, and sometimes you might misinterpret your body’s demand for water as a need for something else (food, moisturizer, Advil, etc.).
Whether you’re living in a warm climate or enjoying a northern summer, higher temperatures can up your risk for dehydration. Before heading out into the sunshine, do yourself a favor and read up on a few subtle signs of dehydration:
Food Cravings: When your body doesn’t have enough fluids, certain organs (think the liver) have trouble releasing energy stores. As a result, you might have food cravings. Usually these will have you reaching for candy or other sugary snacks, but it’s not unusual for people to crave salty foods. If your sweet tooth starts acting up after a few hours in the sun, munch on fruit. The sweetness and high water content will zap your craving and boost hydration levels.
Bad Breath: You might need a glass of H₂O along with that Tic Tac. Dehydration causes your body to cut saliva production. When there isn’t any moisture to wash away mouth bacteria, they stay put and cause stinky breath—something that nobody wants.
Dry Skin: As dehydration worsens, you begin to lose blood volume and your skin may become dry and flushed as a result. Make sure you moisturize often as well as apply sunscreen before spending time outside.
Muscle Cramps: This is more common with heat-related dehydration. The combination of too much heat and too little water will make muscles exert more effort for simple movements. As they work harder, muscles can seize up from the heat.
Headache: Lower blood volume also leads to a lack of oxygen in the brain, which can cause headaches. If your head is pounding, it may indicate a lack of fluid in the sack that protects your brain from the skull. The brain can push up against the skull, which as the result, causes pain.