How to keep your cool in the heat and avoid dehydration
12 Apr 2022
The Straits Times
SINGAPORE - Despite the thundery showers this month, the weather can feel warm on less cloudy days, with the weatherman predicting that temperatures can rise to 35 deg C or higher on such days.
Experts say it is important to keep dehydration at bay.
"If we consume too little water and become dehydrated, our brain function, mood and energy levels are compromised," says Dr Naras Lapsys, a consultant dietitian at The Integrative Medical Centre in River Valley.
A person's daily hydration requirement is based on his or her physical activity, environment and body composition, but in general, people should consume at least two litres of water a day, he says.
What kind of drinks should one consume?
Dr Abdul Muhaimin Abdul Rahman of Healthway Medical Group says the best drink in a humid climate is water.
"It is healthy, does not raise your blood sugar level and it quenches your thirst so you feel more comfortable in hot weather," he says.
Dr Juliana Bahadin, medical director at Redhill Clinic by Silkroutes Medihealth, suggests sparkling water as a refreshing alternative to plain water. "They add a zing to plain water and it is a refreshing way to cool down your body," she says.
If water is not palatable, consider isotonic drinks. They contain glucose and electrolytes which are hydrating as they help your cells absorb water better, says Dr Muhaimin.
Dr Juliana notes that coconut water contains high levels of electrolytes such as potassium and magnesium, like most sports drinks.
"Coconut water also has a high level of antioxidants and nutrients. It quenches thirst and replenishes your salt," she adds.
Blended drinks or smoothies made from vegetables or fruit that have high water content, such as celery and strawberry, is also a good way to get hydrated, though consuming too much fruit juice can raise one's blood sugar.
A hot drink can also be cooling in hot weather, says Dr Lapsys.
"It initially heats you up and increases perspiration. However, if you are in an air-conditioned environment where your perspiration is able to evaporate, then the evaporation has a cooling effect on the body that overrides the small heat increase from the hot beverage," he adds.
People fasting during the month of Ramadan should drink at least eight glasses of water between the time of breaking fast and the pre-dawn meal to avoid dehydration during the day.
Dr Juliana suggests counting one's water intake this way: two glasses of water when breaking fast, two glasses before night prayers, two glasses after night prayers and two glasses during the pre-dawn meal.
Doctors advise against consuming caffeinated drinks such as coffee and tea to quench thirst.
Dr Muhaimin says: "They possess a diuretic effect that increases urination. This leads to loss of water and increases the rate of dehydration as the day goes on."
Instead, consume apple, cucumber and celery as they keep one hydrated and help replenish vitamins and minerals, and can be a great addition as snacks after breaking fast, says Dr Juliana.
To boost one's immunity during the fasting month, Dr Muhaimin recommends eating foods rich in vitamins C and E.
Fruit and vegetables rich in vitamin C include orange, papaya, kiwi, bell pepper, broccoli and cauliflower. Nuts such as almonds, peanuts and hazelnuts, as well as plant-based oils such as sunflower and soya bean oil, are rich in vitamin E.
Exercise is also helpful to improve one's immunity.
Non-strenuous exercise like walking improves your cardiac fitness and overall fitness, which is important to maintain a strong immune system, says Dr Juliana.
However, Dr Muhaimin cautions that exercise should be done depending on the person's tolerance level, as some may exercise less when fasting due to fatigue and dehydration.
To gauge if you are drinking enough water, look out for signs of dehydration such as headache, dry mouth, difficulty concentrating and fatigue, says Dr Juliana.
Another way to monitor your hydration levels is by the colour of your urine. "If you are adequately hydrated, you should be urinating about once every two to four hours, and your urine should be colourless or a very pale yellow. If it is darker than that, you haven't had enough fluid," she says.
To lower body temperature, people can drape wet towels on themselves or wear clothes with better airflow through the fabric.
Dr Juliana suggests that people place a cold towel or ice pack on their wrists or drape it around the neck.
Taking a cold shower or bath also helps to cool the body by lowering your core temperature. For an extra cool blast, try peppermint soap, says Dr Juliana.
"The menthol in peppermint oil activates the brain and tells your body you are feeling cold," she adds.
Another way to stay cool is to reduce the amount of heat absorbed by choosing light-coloured clothes or using a light-coloured umbrella when going out.
Dr Muhaimin says: "Dark-coloured materials absorb more light and heat, making everything hotter. Light colours help reflect more heat away from us, thus keeping us cooler."
Source: The Straits Times © Singapore Press Holdings Limited. Reproduced with permission.
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