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Dehydration Education

When the weather is hot, your body needs to work harder to maintain its proper function. With a massive heat wave affecting much of the country, it is important to stay hydrated.

Medical correspondent Dr. Emily Senay talked with Harry Smith on Tuesday's The Early Show about how much people need to drink, and which beverages are better or worse when trying to stay hydrated.

Senay said that people should generally make a conscious decision to drink more when the weather is hot. When there is extreme heat, your body loses more moisture than usual. Especially if you are exercising, moisture needs to be replaced if you want to avoid heat-related illness.

It's important to be drinking at all times during hot weather. You want to be hydrated before you go into the heat and you want to keep drinking and stay hydrated while you're in hot places, whether you feel thirsty or not. And if you do feel thirsty, taking in fluids matters even more.

"A lot of people don't respond to their thirst. Recognizing when you are thirsty, especially for little kids, is really important," Senay said.

During ordinary conditions, the Institute of Medicine recommends that women consume about nine cups of various beverages each day, while men should have about 12 cups of fluids altogether. But when the weather gets hot, this number will increase. If you are exercising in the heat or perspiring heavily, you should consume two to four cups of cool fluids every hour.

The best liquid to stay hydrated with is pure water. But there are other options. Milk is a good choice. For athletes, after an hour of strenuous activity, sports drinks will be able to replace the salt and electrolytes that you have lost. Fruit juices in moderation are an option, but if you drink too much sugar, you will inhibit the body from absorbing the water that you need.

Eating fruits and vegetables can also help you stay hydrated. Watermelon and cucumbers consist nearly entirely of water, so by eating them you will help hydrate yourself and satisfy a certain amount of your hunger, too.

Drinks to avoid in heat include alcoholic beverages and sugary drinks. Beer can dehydrate your body, so it is not good at replenishing your bodily fluids. Beverages with a lot of sugar, such as soda, can also reduce the amount of fluid that your body actually retains.

Also keep in mind that cool is better than extremely cool when taking a drink. Very cold beverages can give you stomach cramps.

For more information on staying hydrated click on the following links:

Extreme Heat: A Prevention Guide to Promote Your Personal Health and Safety

Water: How much should you drink every day?

Dehydration: Prevention

Dehydration and youth sports: Curb the risk

Tips for Preventing Heat-Related Illness

Dietary Reference Intakes: Water, Potassium, Sodium, Chloride, and Sulfate

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