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  • Writer's pictureDustin Kacaba

Don't succumb to winter dehydration

In the summer, many of us are well-versed in recognizing dehydration symptoms as extreme heat paired with more physical activity provides ample opportunities to become rapidly dehydrated. With our workload reaching new peaks each summer, it's something we're constantly looking out for in ourselves and with our team since it poses such a danger. However, many don't realize it poses just as great a danger during the cooler months too. Even we tend to forget, and that's why this week's #selfcaresunday focus is a reminder to stay hydrated all year round.

We don't often connect dehydration with the winter. A lack of hot sunny days and fewer physical activity opportunities enables us to let our guard down. Combine that lowered concern with warm, dry air and an increased craving for warm caffeine, and you're well on your way to replacing your winter fatigue with winter dehydration.

Are you aware of all the symptoms that come along with Dehydration? According to a piece written and reviewed for on Dehydration, "Symptoms of mild to moderate dehydration include:

  • fatigue

  • dry mouth

  • increased thirst

  • decreased urination

  • less tear production

  • dry skin

  • constipation

  • dizziness

  • lightheadedness

  • headache

In addition to the symptoms of mild dehydration, severe dehydration is likely to cause the following:

  • excessive thirst

  • lack of sweat production

  • low blood pressure

  • rapid heart rate

  • rapid breathing

  • sunken eyes

  • shriveled skin

  • dark urine

Severe dehydration is a medical emergency. Get immediate medical help if you’re showing any of these signs and symptoms." While the severe symptoms are scary, it's the mild to moderate ones we want to focus on today, especially the last 3 dizziness, lightheadedness & headache. These physical symptoms point towards our hypothesis today that dehydration might have a discernable impact on our mental health, enough so that it could be confused during the winter with Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). Thankfully, since we're not doctors or researchers, there is already work supporting our hypothesis conducted by the University of Connecticut’s Human Performance Laboratory, and summarized by "Results among the women revealed that mild dehydration resulted in fatigue, headaches, and decreased ability to concentrate. The men experienced challenges in completing mental task involving alertness and memory and reported instances of tension, anxiety, and fatigue." Now, let us compare their results with the most common symptoms of SAD according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.

  • Increased sleep and daytime drowsiness

  • Loss of interest and pleasure in activities formerly enjoyed

  • Social withdrawal and increased sensitivity to rejection

  • Irritability and anxiety

  • Feelings of guilt and hopelessness

  • Fatigue, or low energy level

  • Decreased sex drive

  • Decreased ability to focus or concentrate

  • Trouble thinking clearly

  • Increased appetite, especially for sweets and carbohydrates

  • Weight gain

  • Physical problems, such as headaches

In the list above, we've underlined common SAD symptoms that overlap with the University of Connecticut's results from their research into mental health concerns developed from dehydration. If we also take into consideration the fact that #5 of 6 Unusual Signs of Dehydration You Should Know About, by Nancie George at Everyday Health is "Food Cravings, Especially for Sweets, May Just Mean You’re Thirsty." It's no stretch for us to suggest that a majority, if not all of the most common SAD symptoms could be misinterpreted signs of dehydration.

While all this may seem scary, it should present a big relief. If this is the case, the solution is simple. Start by drinking a few extra glasses of water and get outside for some fresh air and sunshine.

Our plan to keep hydrated is to bring our refillable water bottles with us every time we leave the house and keep track with our FitBit app of how many we're drinking in a day. If you don't have a FitBit, you can still use that app or numerous others to keep track of your daily water intake. If you are experiencing signs of Dehydration or Seasonal Affective Disorder, please seek appropriate medical help. This is a work of hypothesis considering how SADs and dehydration could be misinterpreted and not a self-diagnosis tool.

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