- Summer travel is back up this year and the AAA estimated that 3.6 million Americans traveled through airports over the July 4 weekend.
- Experts say traveling during major heatwaves can mean an increased risk of dehydration.
- Travel disrupts our daily routines, which means we may not be drinking as much water as we normally would if we were at home.
This summer airline travel is back in a big way.
AAA estimated that 3.6 million Americans traveled through airports over the July 4 weekend.
It’s been more than two years since people have traveled at this volume, and while many of us are excited to get back to travel, we may be a little bit rusty on some of the basics. Staying hydrated, for example, is one of the challenges we face while traveling, and especially considering the summer heat, you may want to bookmark these tips on beating dehydration.
There are a variety of reasons why travel can be dehydrating. The first reason is that travel disrupts our daily routines, which means we may not be drinking as much water as we normally would if we were at home.
Second, if you’re traveling in an airplane, that automatically increases hydration needs because at altitude things get very dry. And a third reason why we may become dehydrated when we travel is that we are traveling to countries with bacteria that our bodies are not used to, which may cause us to feel dehydrated.
“It is important to stay hydrated during air travel,” said Dr. Eric Ascher, a family medicine specialist at Lenox Hill Hospital. “Some people traveling by car tend to not drink water for fear of not being able to find a bathroom along the way. Your environment traveling is likely one you are not used to — perhaps eating saltier foods, an extra alcoholic beverage than used to, or more activities than you are used to, and hydration with water is an afterthought.”
It’s important to be aware of signs of dehydration so that you can address the problem before it gets worse. When traveling, there are certain symptoms to pay attention to that could indicate you are dehydrated.
According to the Cleveland Clinic, the following are some of the biggest signs of dehydration:
- Extreme thirst
- Dry mouth or dry cough
- Less frequent urination
- Dark-colored urine
But adults are not the only ones who need to look out for their hydration. Families traveling will also want to pay attention to kids and infants to make sure they are staying hydrated, as well.
Symptoms of dehydration in children or infants include
- Dry lips and tongue
- No tears when crying
- Fewer than six wet diapers per day for infants
- No wet diapers or urination for eight hours for toddlers
- Sunken eyes, cheeks
- Sunken soft spot on top of skull
- Listlessness or irritability
It probably comes as no surprise that drinking water is the best way to not only stay hydrated and rehydrate. Investing in a reusable water bottle and making sure it stays full throughout your travels is one of the easiest and cost-effective ways to ensure you do not get dehydrated along your travels. Aim to drink a minimum of six to eight glasses of water per day, though if you’re traveling you should be drinking more than that.
Another way to stay hydrated is to monitor the foods you eat while traveling.
“Water is an excellent means of hydration, but so are fruits and veggies,” said Ascher. “Avoidance of dehydrating beverages – coffee, alcohol – and increasing your hydration during exercise, will also help prevent dehydration.”
That said, when it comes to staying hydrated in extreme circumstances, water is not always enough.
When extremely dehydrated, electrolytes are important. Electrolytes are minerals in the blood that help control fluid balance in the body. The top electrolytes are sodium, potassium, and magnesium. Keeping these balanced is what keeps your blood pressure regulated and muscles contracting normally.
“Fluids and electrolytes like sodium, potassium, and magnesium are important to help the body stay healthy. They help regulate blood pressure, keep your heart pumping normally, and help muscles contract,” said Dr. Nicholas Kman, an emergency medicine physician at The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center. “Common symptoms of dehydration include feeling thirsty, dry mouth, headaches or muscle cramps, nausea and weakness or dizziness.”
Examples of elecrolyte drinks and hydration powders or tablets include brands like DripDrop ORS , Nuun or Hi-Lyte. Whatever brand you choose, it is imperative to understand the importance of replenishing these minerals along with water in order to stay hydrated.
“When you are dehydrated, water is very important, but not the only means of rehydration,” added Ascher. “When you are dehydrated, you need a surplus of electrolytes to help your hydration status.”
In addition to electrolyte beverages, Ascher adds that you can find electrolytes in fruits, vegetables, and unsweetened coconut water.
“The typical eight-ounce electrolyte drink contains around 14 grams of sugar. In general, people should aim to avoid drinking high sugar sports drinks. Consuming too much sugar can contribute to other health issues,” said Kman.