The importance of hydration

Hydrate, any compound containing water in the form of H2O molecules, usually, but not always, with a definite content of water by weight. The best-known hydrates are crystalline solids that lose their fundamental structures upon removal of the bound water.
Drinking enough water each day is crucial for many reasons: to regulate body temperature, keep joints lubricated, prevent infections, deliver nutrients to cells, and keep organs functioning properly. Being well-hydrated also improves sleep quality, cognition, and mood.

How much water should you drink a day?

There’s something to the old “eight glasses a day” adage. For adults, a half-gallon — 64 ounces, or eight (8-ounce) glasses — is recommended. And not all of those cups have to come from plain water; for example, some can come from water flavored with fruit or vegetables (lemons, berries, or orange or cucumber slices), or from coffee or tea. You may need more if you’re exercising or the weather is especially hot.

Tips for staying hydrated

Don’t wait till you’re thirsty to drink.

By the time you feel thirsty, you’re already slightly dehydrated. Sip water steadily throughout the day and drink more fluids than usual when the weather is hot, especially if you’re active.

Flavor your water.

If plain water tastes boring to you, you can add flavor with fresh fruits or a splash of fruit juice. You can also consume clear broths, ice pops or sports drinks (especially if you’re doing intense exercise). Just make sure to limit caffeine and alcohol.

Eat water-rich fruits and vegetables.

Certain fruits and vegetables contain plenty of water in addition to healthful nutrients. Watermelon, strawberries, cantaloupe, peaches and pineapples are fruits with high-water content. Water-rich vegetables include cucumbers, leafy greens, radishes, celery, zucchini and tomatoes.

Stay inside when it gets too hot.

On very hot days, stay indoors in an air-conditioned environment. If you don’t have air conditioning at home, try a shopping center, movie theater or public library. Avoid sun exposure, especially between 10 am and 2 pm, when the rays are strongest. Plan outdoor activities in the early morning or evening.

Dress for the weather.

Wear light, loose-fitting clothing that lets your skin breathe. Dark colors absorb heat, so stick with lighter shades. Wear a wide-brimmed hat in the sun to keep your head cool and use plenty of sunscreen to avoid sunburn, which can increase your skin temperature and make it harder to stay cool.

Be aware of the signs of dehydration.

If anyone in your family is ill, pay attention to how much they’re able to drink — especially young children and the elderly. Anyone with a fever, vomiting or diarrhea should drink plenty of fluids. Do not wait for signs of dehydration to appear.

Bottom line

Most healthy people can stay well hydrated by drinking water and other fluids whenever they feel thirsty. For some people, fewer than 8 glasses may be enough. Other people may need more than 8 glasses each day. Other options. While plain water is best for staying hydrated, other drinks and foods can help, too.

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