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Trekking Basics: How to Overcome Dehydration in Cold Weather

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With  the onset of winter, hiking becomes one of the major sporting activities among the people in different parts of the world. Even though hiking is a major cardio workout that will keep your body, mind, and heart-healthy but are you aware of the fact that hiking can be a vital reason due to which you may suffer from dehydration in cold weather. According to a recent survey, it has been found that loss of water from the body during winter is due to perspiration and respiration but only a few hikers are aware of this fact.

We've discussed some of the major facts that will help you to become aware of what is dehydration, what are symptoms of dehydration and even the vital tips to overcome dehydration and thereby enjoy hiking in a safe way. 

What is Dehydration

Dehydration is referred to a medical condition in which the human body uses or loses more amount of water than it actually intakes in. Since 75% of the human body is composed of water, an insufficient amount of water in the blood can lead to an imbalance in the level of salts, sugars, minerals and thereby ultimately affect various normal functions of the body such lubrication of joints and even eyes.  

Causes of Dehydration in Cold Weather

Some of the major reasons due to which most of the hikers suffer from cold weather dehydration are-

Cause #1 - Not drinking enough water while hiking or inability to drink water

This is one of the major causes of dehydration among the hikers in winter. According to an analysis, it has been found that most of the hikers feel 40% less thirst during the winter hikes even though the body requires more amount of water for proper functioning. 

cold weather dehydration
Dehydration due to not drinking water (source)

Cause #2 - Evaporation of sweat during the winter

Even though a person perspires while hiking during the winter season but he is not able to visualize it because the sweat immediately turns into water vapour as soon it comes in contact with the cold temperature. This is also a major reason due to which hikers intake less amount of water during winter which further results in dehydration.

Cause #3 - Wearing of warm clothes during winter

Most of the hikers generally wear warm clothes like heavy jackets to save themselves from the chilling winter and this is certainly a major reason due to which they suffer from dehydration in cold weather. Wearing warm clothes results in the production of more amount sweat and hence, leads to loss of fluid from the body.

what to wear winter trekking
Wearing warm clothes can dehydrate 

Cause #4 Vomiting while hiking

Do you have the habit of vomiting while hiking? Then this is also one of the common causes of dehydration while hiking during the winters. According to clinical studies, it has been found that continuous vomiting is one of the major reasons due to which the body loses a major amount of fluid and this condition results in dehydration. 

Cause #5 Habit of not keeping a bottle of water during winter hikes

Since hikers generally feel less thirsty during the winter compared to that of summer, they seldom keep a bottle of water during the winter season and thereby suffer from cold weather dehydration. 

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Dehydration?

Make sure to go through the further lines in order to become aware of what are symptoms of dehydration during the winter season. At the initial stage of cold weather dehydration the desire to have lots of water increases among the hikers and besides this, the urine output also decreases in order to store water to get rid of dehydration. Some of the other vital symptoms of dehydration are-

  • Headache
  • Fatigue
  • Dry Mouth and even nose
  • Dark colored urine with strong odor
  • Nausea
  • Muscle cramps
  • Dizziness
  • Confusion in the mind and Disorientate which can ultimately lead to organ failure or coma
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Fainting
signs of dehydration
Signs of dehydration (source)

How is Dehydration Diagnosed

Even though a person suffering from cold weather dehydration can easily be diagnosed by the above symptoms of dehydration but there are some clinical test by which doctors can easily confirm that a hiker is suffering from low level of water in the body.-

  • MMSE or Mini-Mental State Examination

It is a type of medical test by which a doctor can easily analyze the judgment skills, mental condition, alertness, attention span and orientation of a person.  

  • Blood test

Some of the doctors can also conduct a blood test in order to determine the level of sodium and potassium in the blood and even check the working condition of the kidneys.

  • Analyze the skin

This is also a common test by which it can be easily diagnosed whether a hiker is suffering from cold weather dehydration. With the help of this test, a doctor analyzes the elasticity level of the skin because when a person suffers from dehydration the skin generally becomes less elastic due to severe loss of water.

  • Assessment of pulse rate and blood pressure

The pulse rate of a person suffering from dehydration generally increases and on the other hand, the blood pressure drops to a great extent due to severe loss of water from the cells.

  • Temperature test 

With the help of temperature test, the doctor is able to determine whether a person is suffering from fever due loss of fluid from the body and thereby needs dehydration treatment. 

How is Dehydration Treated

The best treatment for dehydration certainly depends upon the severity of dehydration and even the age of the person who is suffering from loss of body fluid while hiking. But in general, the ultimate dehydration treatment is to replace the lost electrolytes and even lost fluid. Make sure to consider the below treatments to normalize the level of water in your body in a safe way.

Fluid Replacement

The Fluid Replacement treatment for dehydration can be done in two major ways such as-

  • The patient may be asked to intake clear fluid orally if he is not experiencing vomiting. As you are hiking you can carry some of the major liquids used in case of Fluid Replacement are Water, Popsicles, Clear Broths and Jell-O.
  • But if the patient is unable to intake fluid orally then IV process is used for the treatment of cold weather dehydration.

Self Treatment

Below are discussed some of the major home remedies that will help you to become aware of what to do when the body has dehydrated after a hiking session. 

  • Make sure to have ibuprofen if you are suffering from fever due to dehydration.
  • Can have clear fluids at regular interval to get rid dehydration.

If the above treatment for dehydration does work then it is highly recommended to consult a doctor at the earliest.

Also, check the Guide on How to Stay Hydrated on Treks

Tips to Overcome Cold Weather Dehydration

Hope the above facts have helped you to gain brief knowledge of what is dehydration. Now let’s gather some information on how to recover from dehydration in the best possible way.

Tip #1 Ensure to have proper nutrition

If you want to overcome dehydration in a safe way then it will certainly be wise for you to have lots of fruits and vegetables that have a high level of water content. Carry fruits while hiking or make fruit juices and drink them during your hikes. Some of the major fruits and vegetables that you must have to increase the fluid level in your body are-

  • Oranges, Watermelon, strawberries, and grapefruit
  • Cabbage, cauliflower, lettuce, broccoli, spinach, and tomatoes

Besides this, you can also have dairy products if you are not suffering from vomiting and diarrhea along with severe dehydration. 

juices for body
Drink juices while hiking 

Tip #2 Drink up

Make a habit to take extra fluid or water when you are planning to go for hiking. It will be wise for you to drink water at a regular interval in order to maintain the proper fluid level in the body and thereby overcome cold weather dehydration in a smart way. 

Tip #3 Prevent wearing extra clothing

This is also one of the major tips that will help you to overcome dehydration during hiking in cold weather condition. It will be wise for you to choose loose-fitting woollen garments to ensure proper flow of air in the body and restrict the production of sweat which leads to fluid loss.

Tip #4 Oil Up

Make sure to apply oil to your face and skin in order to prevent dehydration while hiking during the winter season. Applying of oil will not just only help in locking the moisture but will also prevent dryness of your lips and nose due to cold waves. Before hitting the bed, do apply face and body oil all over your body.

Tip #5 Consider drinking extra water after hiking

To overcome cold weather dehydration, it will be wise for you to have extra water after hiking in order to not just only quench your thirst but also prevent loss of fluid from the body.

Tip #6 Lower the intake of high-protein diets

Hikers are generally asked to lower the intake of high protein diets because it is also one of the major reasons of suffering from dehydration. According to a clinical study, it has been found that high level of protein will not just only affect the kidney function but even increase the thirst level of a person.

Tip #7 Make sure to avoid alcohol

It is a smart decision to avoid alcohol if you wish to prevent loss of water from your body. Clinical studies have highlighted that alcohol suppresses a major hormone (Antidiuretic Hormone) which regulates the production of urine. This is a major reason due to which intake of alcohol can lead to overproduction of urine and ultimately result in dehydration.

Conclusion

The above are some of the major tips on how to overcome and even treat dehydration while hiking in the best possible way. Make sure to feel free to convey any other tips and treatment methods to prevent loss of fluid from the body in a smart way.

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