Many people consider summer to be the months with the greatest threat of dehydration, but winter—and the cold that comes along with it—are a subtler, more nefarious villain in your body’s battle against dehydration. Here are four reasons to drink water in colder months.
Part of the problem is that individuals underestimate winter’s ability to sap them of their body’s fluids. Due to the cold, blood vessels to outer extremities shrink so as to keep warmth closer to the core of the body. This is a great tool for staying warm, but not for staying hydrated: The constricted blood vessels inhibit the body’s thirst response—sometimes by up to 40 percent—which leads to your body not conserving water efficiently because it thinks it’s more hydrated than it is.
On top of that, the weather itself is working against you. Whenever you inhale cold air, your lungs have to heat up and humidify every breath you take. Whenever you exhale and see your breath, all of that is water vapor leaving your body, and that water has to come from somewhere. The colder the temperature, the more water your body loses by breathing. This also goes for sweat: Sweat evaporates quickly in such cold weather so it’s difficult to notice, and you can be tricked into believing you’ve lost less water than you actually have.
There’s also the sheer weight of the clothes you’re wearing. When you have on long-sleeved shirts, thick pants, a sweater, a jacket, a scarf and any other number of warm articles of clothing to combat the cold, you start really weighing yourself down. A scarf here and a coat there doesn’t seem like much, but it adds up piece by piece. The added weight makes your body work harder to do the same tasks you would be doing during the rest of the year with less clothing, and that exertion will cost your body water.
All of these seem like relatively small things, but these are on top of your normal water usage and exertion. You use and lose water every day, regardless of weather, but your body responds differently to dehydration in different weather, and so do you. Drinking water, in addition to your normal amount, and consider swapping it out for hot beverages that your body can absorb more readily without having to heat it up. Hot tea and hot chocolate are great options, just make sure to steer clear of caffeine—caffeine acts as a diuretic, which causes your body to absorb less of the water passing through you. When you’re dehydrated, this is counterintuitive! Switch your teas and coffees out for decaf, and you’ll be fine.
Remember to stay hydrated in these winter months, and watch out for the symptoms of dehydration. Thirst, dizziness, heart palpitations, sluggishness and even fainting are symptomatic of mild-to-severe dehydration. If you find yourself feeling dizzy and lethargic, consider taking a break from what you’re doing and getting big, tall glass of water instead. Your body will thank you.