Anybody can tell you that fighting the summer heat is all about keeping your body cool. Whether you are experiencing the dry heat of north India or the warm humidity of coastal regions, you need several long, cold drinks — not the alcoholic kind — to keep yourself hydrated. “Thirst is not an indicator of dehydration, so don’t wait to feel thirsty. Have at least 12 glasses a day, with an additional one glass of water for every half hour spent outdoors,” says nutritionist Ishi Khosla, director, Wholefoods.
The body loses heat through sweating, and dehydration prevents it from releasing heat in an efficient manner. But drinking water is not enough. “Along with water loss, sweating leads to the loss of vital electrolytes such as sodium and potassium, low levels of which cause weakness, fatigue and dizziness,” says Parminder Kaur, chief dietitian, All India Institute of Medical Sciences. Since heat injury can occur in both physically active and sedentary people, make sure you have a long, cold drink before heading out for a longish drive, especially if your car is not air-conditioned.
“Along with water, have whole fruits and vegetables, which not only have a high water content but also essential electrolytes,” says Kaur. She advises people to drink coconut water (high in potassium), buttermilk etc. That apart, you can make your own oral rehydration solution by adding eight teaspoons of sugar and one teaspoon of salt (sodium) in one litre of water.
Sugary drinks, sodas and cold tea and coffee are not a substitute for water, as they are acidic and act as diuretics (normal water loss is 1.5 litres per day).
Weakness, anxiety, fatigue, thirst, dizziness, headache, nausea, clammy skin and vomiting following heat exposure are signs of heat injury, which in an advance stage can manifest through shallow breathing, muscular jerks, agitation, impaired judgment and confusion, followed by collapse. “In such cases, giving plain water is not enough. You have too provide electrolytes by adding sugar and salt,” says Khosla.