Most people don’t think of dehydration as a concern over the winter but it is. We actually sweat even when it’s minus 30 outside but you may not be as aware because of all the layers that you’re wearing. Also, it’s a normal reaction for the cold to make us urinate more. As if that wasn’t enough, the air around us is dry (whether it’s the heated dry air in our rooms or the cold dry air outside), sucking the moisture out of our skin.

Why should we care?

First, your skin and lips will feels uncomfortable when they dry out. Chapped lips and dry, itchy skin aren’t fun. Second, dehydration increases the risk that you’ll catch a cold. That’s because the first line of defense is the lining of our nose and if it becomes dry and cracked that barrier is no longer intact. Lastly, dehydration will make you feel tired and weak and can cause you to feel lightheaded and even faint. So it makes sense to keep up.

You can drink soups and other liquids. You can make certain that you’re eating foods that have a lot of liquid in them like fruits and vegetables. You’ll know that you’re drinking enough by how you feel and by the color of your urine.

Concentrated urine (for example first thing in the morning after an overnight fast) is dark and yellow. During the day if you’re drinking enough your urine should become clear and only faintly yellow. If it isn’t, then you’re not getting enough fluid.

To keep your skin happy, moisturize after your shower or bath. Even when you towel off, there’s some moisture on your skin and if you apply your moisturizer right after you dry yourself, it helps to trap that moisture next to your skin. If you are trying to avoid chapped lips, use the simplest moisturizing lip balm you can find. Eucalyptus and menthol may actually make things worse. Flavouring will make you lick your lips more, which is actually not good for them. The key is to use something that protects your lips without inflaming them or making you lick them.

You might also want to consider making your home or office a more pleasant place to be by keeping it properly humidified. I am told that some indoor plants such as English Ivy and Boston fern can help to humidify a room. You can also use a humidifier but follow the manufacturer’s instructions to keep it clean so it doesn’t spread bugs along with the moisture.

Winter is rough on our bodies. I hope that these hints help make it more tolerable.

Dr. Mitch Shulman is an Assistant Professor, Dept. of Surgery, McGill Medical School and an Attending Physician, Emergency Department, McGill University Health Centre. He’s also the CJAD AM 800 Medical Consultant.

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