From the Hilbert College Wellness Center
by Kirsten Falcone, RN
There are numerous reasons college students visit their Wellness Center, ranging from colds to cuts, sore throats to stubbed toes. But one of the most common denominators is dehydration. Dehydration seems to be insidious in nature; that is, it takes root often without notice.
Think about it. You are a college student. You stay up late. You drink coffee or another caffeinated beverage. You walk to morning class. You drink caffeine. You finish studying and go out with your friends, and are more likely to imbibe alcohol. You may work late at night. You may be actively involved in your sport. You tend to forget to drink water because of your busy lifestyle. Or, you purposely do not drink water before class, because, honestly, you don’t want to have to excuse yourself for a bathroom break. Whatever the reason, many college students are dehydrated and don’t even know it.
But did you know that water is essential in just about every chemical reaction in your body? It is estimated that our body weight is actually 50-70 percent water. The fluids in our body have many functions, including dissolving and transporting substances, maintaining blood volume and body temperature, and tissue lubrication and protection. In addition, brain tissue is about 70 to 80 percent water (which is a good reason to drink water before class, after all!).
Signs of dehydration are thirst (or hunger), reduced need to urinate, urine that is darker than light yellow, dry skin, fatigue, and feeling faint. When we let ourselves become dehydrated, other symptoms may develop, including headaches, muscle cramps, constipation, dry mouth, bad breath, fever, drowsiness, low blood pressure, high pulse, depression, sore throat and kidney stones. In fact, not drinking enough water can lead to the body having a lower resistance to infection and disease.
But how much water should you drink? Currently, the recommended amount of H20 intake is 64 to 96 ounces (or more) per day (though some sources state up to 125 ounces for men). To put this in more understandable terms, this is the equivalent of four to six 16-ounce bottles of water, or eight to 12 8-ounce glasses of water. Daily water intake can also be attained from milk, decaffeinated tea or coffee, fruit juices, and produce. Here is one clue to keep in mind: If you feel thirsty, you are already dehydrated!
Some ways to prevent dehydration:
- Drink water before, during and after physical activities,
- Drink a glass of water after you brush your teeth in the morning and at night,
- Keep bottled water with you to sip throughout the day,
- Avoid alcohol and caffeine,
- Add a slice of lemon or orange to a pitcher of water, for a flavor boost,
- Eat water-rich foods like soup, salad, melon and broccoli
For further information, try these Internet resources:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)