David Moloto & Joy Manyama |03 November 2017
In South Africa, summer is from November to the end of February and it is hot in all regions. Just how hot or humid depends on the geographic location of an individual. The Western and Eastern Cape rarely reaches temperatures above 30°C (86°F) whereas in the north of the country, temperatures can be higher and even extreme. In the Northern Cape and Mpumalanga, temperatures can reach above 45°C (113°F), too hot for hiking and outdoor pursuits. Humidity is also a major factor in KwaZulu-Natal.
With the heat we experience, often during hot days, dehydration may occur. Dehydration takes place when you use or lose more fluid than you take in, and your body doesn't have enough water and other fluids to carry out its normal functions. If you don't replace lost fluids, you will get dehydrated. Anyone may become dehydrated, but the condition is more dangerous for young children and older adults.
Symptoms of mild dehydration may include increased thirst, dry mouth, being tired or sleepy, decreased urine output, urine is low in volume and more yellowish in colour than normal, headache, dry skin and dizziness and may also cause bladder infection.
Here are helpful tips to stay hydrated:
- Drink enough water to prevent thirst. At least 8 glasses or 2 litres per day.
- Monitor fluid loss by checking the colour of your urine. It should be pale yellow and not dark yellow, too smelly or cloudy.
- Every time you exercise in extreme heat or for more than one hour, supplement water with a sports drink that contains electrolytes and 6 percent to 8 percent carbohydrates. This prevents "hyponatremia" (low blood sodium), which dilutes your blood and could also lead to serious impairments and death.
- Begin exercise well-hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids the day before and within the hour before, during and after your exercise session.
- Avoid alcohol the day before or the day of a long exercise bout, and avoid exercising with a hangover.
- Consider all fluids, including tea, coffee, juices, milk and soups (excluding alcohol, which is extremely dehydrating). “The amount of caffeine in tea and coffee does not discount the fluid in them, even if they have a slight diuretic effect”, according to the most recent report by the National Research Council's Food and Nutrition Boards.
- You can also replace fluid and sodium losses with watery foods that contain salt and potassium, such as soup and vegetable juices.
- For long hikes, when you'll need food, dried fruit and nut mixtures contain high amounts of potassium, sodium, protein, carbohydrates and calories. Continue to drink plenty of water.