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  • Mark Adkins

When I'm sick, how do I know if I'm getting enough water?

Updated: Apr 6

Unfortunately, now you're sick with a cough, fever, congestion, and headache. You're unsure what the "bug" is but you know you definitely don't want the symptoms to worsen. One way to prevent this, is to stay well hydrated with some "high quality H2O" or just some every day, clean, clear water. I prefer water, however, electrolyte infused, flavored waters and sports drinks can be beneficial when plain water is not readily available.


The Myth

When asked, many people will say they need 8 (64 ounces) glasses of water a day. We remember it from grade school and likely have repeated it as advice to others. However, there is no scientific proof showing this amount of water to be the exact same amount everyone needs. If you think about it, is it reasonable that a 350 pound linebacker and a petite 95 pound grandma need the same amount of water?


The Reality

Humans come in all different shapes and sizes. Which, in turn, would require different amounts of hydration. Good hydration is necessary for all components of the body to function normally. If we get into a situation where our hydration has lessened, we can't expect our body to fend off disease as efficiently. In fact, it can actually make the illness worse and even lead to hospitalization because of dehydration. During many illnesses, you may lose water due to fever, diarrhea, vomiting, sweating, or rapid breathing (and many other ways). Many people don't recognize the body's increase in water demand and may rapidly become dehydrated.


How Do I Know?

That's a good question. If you have any medical condition that is hydration sensitive such as heart failure, kidney failure, or any issue require strict measurement, you should speak to your healthcare provider. If you are otherwise healthy, below are signs of a well hydrated body:


1. Your Pee Is Clear. When your urine becomes more water than waste, it becomes more clear in color. This is one of the best ways to determine hydration if you have no medical issues that would cause a change in urine otherwise.

2. Your Mucous Membranes Are Moist. Your mucous membranes typically have a layer of moisture on their suface for normal function and protection. This layer of moisture is constant. When you have less water in your system, there is less water to maintain that layer of moisture (mucosal lining). Your mouth, nose, and intestinal tract are common areas to determine your level of hydration. A dry mouth or dry, cracked lips could mean you need to increase your water intake.

3. Your Skin Snaps Back. If you "pinch" enough skin to lift it from your arm (or other area) and it goes back into shape slowly, this could mean you are somewhat dehydrated. Your skin should snap back rather quickly (under a second) when tugged. When your skin is depleted of moisture the cells aren't plump with fluid, so they aren't as "bouncy" or "elastic" as they should be. As we age, this can occur and be normal but if it happens over a day or two, most likely you are dry. Your skin can also reveal the need for water by being dry, cracked, or scaly in appearance or to touch in large areas. Small local areas of dry, scaly skin could be due to something other than dehydration.


There are other signs of dehydration like rapid heart rate, fatigue, dizziness or lightheadedness. If you are experiencing these issues, or if the other signs of dehydration do not resolve with increased water intake, you should seek medical attention immediately. Also important to note, if you have any medical condition that is hydration sensitive such as heart failure, kidney failure, or any issue require strict measurement, you should speak to your healthcare provider.





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