You may have heard that drinking eight (eight-ounce) glasses of water every day ensures enough fluids for our bodies. But, if we incorporate other fluids into our diets, do we still need all of that water,and what happens to us if that quota is not met?
Why We Need to Drink Water
Your body is more than 60 percent water, and every system in it needs water to function. Water is a component of digestion and nutrient distribution. It also flushes toxins and helps regulate body temperature. When there isn’t enough water in your body, nothing functions as it should.
Through breathing, perspiring, urinating and bowel movements, the average person loses about ten cups of water every day. Laborers engaged in physically demanding construction tasks, especially during hot humid weather or while wearing protective clothing – hard hats, retro-reflective vests and pants, Tyvek suits, respirators and other personal protective equipment (PPE), can easily lose more. Failure to replace lost water can lead to dehydration and heat stress, which can kill.
Heat is a serious hazard in construction. To minimize risks, employers should help workers protect themselves.
- Drink a lot of cool water all day, even before your feel thirsty. Every 15 minutes you may need a cup of water (five to seven ounces).
- Keep taking rest breaks. Rest in a cool, shady spot. Use fans.
- Wear light-colored clothing made of cotton.
- Do the heaviest work in the coolest time of the day. When possible, work in the shade.
- For heavy work in hot areas, rotate assignments so some can rest.
- If you travel to a warm area for a new job, you need time to get used to the heat. Be careful in the first two weeks of the job.
- If you work in protective clothing, you need more rest breaks. You may also need to check your temperature and heart rate.
- If you think someone has heat stroke, call emergency services or 911. Move the individual to shade, wipe skin with cool water, loosen clothing and fan with cardboard or other material.
The LHSFNA offers handouts, health alerts and manuals pertaining to heat stress. They can be ordered through the Fund’s Publications Catalogue.
Symptoms of Dehydration
- Dry mouth
- Dark yellow or amber urine
- Dry eyes, no tears
- Inability to sweat
- Muscle cramps
- Nausea and vomiting
- Heart palpitations
Ways to Stay Hydrated
According to the Institute of Medicine (IOM), as long as you drink enough liquids, you can stay hydrated even if you cannot get your eight glasses of water in every day.
However, water alternatives should be consumed in moderation. Guzzled in excess, they can contribute to health problems. For example, caffeine found in drinks like coffee, tea and sodas can contribute to restlessness, insomnia and headaches. It is also a diuretic and can actually contribute to fluid loss. Along with electrolytes, sports drinks contain sugar, sodium and citric acid, which contribute to weight gain, high blood pressure and tooth decay. Regular sodas are also full of added sugars while diet sodas have been linked to low bone density. Research also indicates that the artificial sweeteners in diet beverages can also stimulate sugar cravings, causing drinkers to eat more sugar-infused foods than they would otherwise and helping them gain the very pounds they thought diet soda would help them avoid. New studies (see accompanying story, Is Your Soda Habit a Risk to Your Health?) also point to increased risk of high blood pressure, heart attack and stroke among consumers of soft drinks.
Water should always be your go-to beverage. However, eating apples, oranges, grapes, watermelon and many other fruits that consist almost entirely of water, can also achieve healthy hydration. Including them in your daily diet will help your body stay hydrated and your sweet tooth satisfied.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]