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VERIFY: How to stay hydrated in the heat

Experts weigh in on how to stay healthy in the heat.

WASHINGTON — When the heat is the big story, our Verify team is here with what you need to know to stay safe. Staying hydrated in the heat is important. We asked experts what to keep in mind when reaching for that cool drink.


The National Institutes of Health 

The CDC 

Dr. Susan O’Mara, Emergency Medicine Specialist at MedStar Washington Hospital Center 


Is being thirsty a sign of dehydration?




Few things taste better than a cool beverage on a hot day, but Verify was asked if our sips serve an even bigger purpose: fighting off dehydration.

According to the CDC, by the time you feel thirsty, your body is already telling you that you don’t have enough fluids.

And while dehydration can make you more susceptible to heat-related illness, quenching thirst when it hits can help keep you healthy.

"So by the time you feel thirsty, you're only let's say you're about 1% dehydrated. That is not in any way a dangerous condition. It just means you need to top yourself off essentially. So if you feel thirsty, you need to drink," said Dr. Susan O'Mara, an Emergency Medicine Specialist at MedStar Washington Hospital. 


Is it a good idea to chug water to stay hydrated?




It can be harder to stay hydrated when you’re spending a day sweating in this DMV heat, so it can be tempting to drink a lot water in one sitting to make sure you  stay hydrated throughout the day. Our experts say that’s not as useful in long-term hydration. For some people with other medical issues, it can be dangerous. 

"I would say that there is certainly an extreme upper limit of water intake that can be a problem," Dr. O'Mara said.

The CDC says too much fluid in too short of a time can throw off the concentration of salt in the bloodstream. That's why drinking a little water constantly is better than a lot of water all at once.

The CDC recommends, when working in the heat, drink one cup of water every 15 to 20 minutes, and no more than 48 ounces, or a quart and a half, per hour.


Are other liquids more hydrating than water?


No, in most cases water and regular meals are just fine.


This week we’ve been asking for your summer heat hacks, and heard from several of you who said hot days call for a glass of iced tea! You have no doubt heard from sports drink companies touting their beverages as a better way to quench your thirst.

It’s quite a battle to get enough fluids, but our experts say the best weapon in most cases is still water. 

However, keeping in mind the impact of any added sugar to your diet, they say tea and sports drinks aren’t bad options when you’re feeling thirsty.

"I think there was a very long-standing misunderstanding about caffeine, but it's been debunked now," O'Mara said. 

While Dr. O’Mara says it’s still important not to overindulge in too much caffeine every day,  the CDC says caffeine doesn’t really have an effect on overall hydration, and is not dehydrating, like was once thought. 

Athletes, or anyone working in very sweaty conditions, could benefit from added ingredients in sports drinks. But for most people, the CDC says eating regular meals is enough to offset the minerals lost in a sweat.

"Our kidneys do a beautiful job of regulating how much electrolyte we keep and how much electrolyte we pee away. So normally water does the trick," O'Mara said. 

The only thing our experts say to avoid in situations where dehydration could become an issue? Alcohol. It’s dehydrating and its effects could keep you from recognizing other signs of heat-related illness.

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RELATED: VERIFY | Yes, you can build up the body's tolerance to heat

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