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Hydration Facts for Winter and High Altitudes

January 27th, 2018

Unless you’re sweating and panting in the heat of summer, you may not crave a tall glass of cool water. In fact, in the throes of winter, you may just rather cuddle up under a blanket with a hot cup of coffee. The problem? A lot of people end up dehydrated in winter months, because drinking a ton of water is simply not on our minds as much, and cold weather tends to make us more likely to miss the signs of dehydration. Since your body and mind need adequate hydration to operate at full capacity, it’s important to think about your fluid intake at any season of the year.

Why is it so easy to get dehydrated in the winter?

  • People tend to lose the natural response for thirst when it's cold outside.

  • You still sweat even when it's cold out, especially if you are skiing or exercising.

  • Many winter sports take place at high altitude, and it's easier to get dehydrated when you’re frolicking among the clouds.

Causes of Winter Dehydration

Believe it or not, a lot of people end up more dehydrated in the dead of winter than in the heat of summer. There are several pretty valid reasons why. First of all, our blood vessels constrict when we’re cold, allowing us to conserve heat, and that’s good, but it can also prevent us from feeling thirsty. When your body feels all warm and fuzzy, you may not feel parched enough to chug from your CamelBack. Plus, with that puffy North Face coat, 2 sweaters, scarf, gloves, beanie, two pairs of jeans and winter boots, we carry around some extra weight in winter, and that can mean using up our stores of water faster.

How Altitude Impacts Hydration

Many of us love winter sports like skiing and snowboarding (or hardcore mountaineering like Brette Harrington), and hang out in higher altitudes than normal through the winter season. High altitude has important impacts on hydration, because with lower air pressure, sweat evaporates quicker from your skin, reducing a key signal to replenish your hydration.

Combined with the low humidity of most high altitude areas, low air pressure means you need more water to keep yourself properly hydrated.

Signs of Dehydration

Many people find it harder to notice the signs of dehydration during winter. Here are some signs to look out for while your hitting the slopes.

  • Dizziness

  • Shortness of Breath

  • No sweat, even when working hard

  • Headache

  • Fatigue

  • Nausea

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