Ronni Gordon is  a cancer survivor and long-time journalist who has written about her journey, about health and fitness, and about how she and others have prevailed in difficult situations. She brings to her writing a mix of personal experience with knowledge about the health-care system and how cancer patients can navigate it. A graduate of Vassar College with a master's degree in journalism from Boston University, she is a freelance writer who worked in daily newspapers for more than 30 years. She has been published in The New York Times, The Philadelphia Inquirer, Dana FarberCancer Institute magazine, and Cancer Today magazine. She lives in Western Massachusetts with her dog, Maddie, short for Madison (Avenue) in honor of her hometown, New York, and is mother of three grown children, Ben, Joe, and Katie

Ronni Gordon

Staying Hydrated in Cold Weather

Tuesday, 26 Nov 2013 09:57 AM

By Ronni Gordon

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Many people are aware of the need to stay hydrated in the summer, but fewer think about it in the cold weather, when it is just important.
 
This is especially true for people receiving chemotherapy or recovering it.
The side effects of chemotherapy are better managed these days, but it still can cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea, which can quickly lead to dehydration.
 
Dehydration occurs just as easily in winter as in the heat of summer. When you are out in the cold, you may not be sweating, but water vapor is still being lost through your breath.
 
Also as soon as the heat comes on, it sucks the humidity out of your house, leading to other problems such as dry skin. Cold weather can make your skin dry and flaky and can make drinking water seem like a chore. But a dehydrated body may be more susceptible in winter to fatigue, colds and flu.
 
If you live in warmer climes, you should still be aware of the risks of dehydration and ways to prevent it even if you are not dealing with the cold.
 
Dehydration occurs when your body loses more fluids than it takes in, upsetting the balance of electrolytes such as potassium and sodium, which affects the way your body functions. Electrolytes help carry electrical signals from cell to cell. If your electrolytes are out of balance, the normal electrical messages can become mixed up.
 
This can cause serious complications such as kidney failure and loss of consciousness and even coma and death in extreme cases.
 
Signs of dehydration include light-headedness, dry mouth, fatigue, thirst, decreased urine, dry skin, and low blood pressure.
 
Here are some tips for staying hydrated: 
  • If you want to save your skin, avoid the long, hot showers that feel so good on a cold day.
  • Drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water a day. If you are on the go, invest in a PABA-free water bottle to take around with you as an alternative to bottled water.
  • Eat raw fruit and vegetables, which are mostly made of water; fruit juices don't count. Watermelon is an especially good choice.
  • Adjust for exercise by adding 4-8 ounces of water for every half-hour of low-intensity exercise and 10-16 ounces for every half-hour of high-intensity exercise.
  • Avoid or limit caffeinated drinks and carbonated drinks, including seltzer. If you are a coffee-drinker, try to switch to decaf in the afternoon. Also, drink extra water each time you have caffeine.
  • Lastly, don't wait until you are thirsty to drink water, because that is the first sign of dehydration. Your urine will tell you if are hydrated.  If the color of your urine is clear or light-colored, it means you're well hydrated.  Dark yellow or amber colored urine usually signals dehydration.

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