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We’ve all experienced it at some point when working or playing hard – fatigue sets in, your mouth feels dry and your legs are heavy and maybe you even get a headache. These are all common signs of dehydration.

When you are working hard, body fluid is lost through sweat. If the fluid lost through sweat is not replaced, dehydration and early fatigue are unavoidable. Losing even 2% of body fluids (less than 3.5 pounds in a 180-pound person) can impair performance by increasing fatigue and affecting cognitive skills. During the summer heat it’s easy to become dehydrated if you don’t drink enough fluids to replace what is lost in sweat.

In summer weather and other hot, humid working conditions, drinking enough water is vital to preventing heat illness. The most serious illness, heat stroke, can be fatal. It occurs when the body’s cooling system fails because of moisture and minerals lost to sweating. To prevent heat illness under hot work conditions:

  •  Wear clothing that allows air circulation
  •  If possible, try to stay out of the sun
  •  Take breaks when you can and drink water frequently

Don’t drink a large quantity of water at once, just keep on sipping. Drinking enough water helps keep the body’s digestive and elimination systems working properly. What is enough water? Eight glasses (eight fluid ounces or about .25 of a liter each) is probably as good a starting point as any. Drinking other beverages and eating waterlogged produce such as lettuce also supplies some of your water requirements. Then adjust your water intake for what seems right for you.

Clear urine, a regular digestive system and supple skin are signs of adequate fluid intake. Headache can be a sign of dehydration, so try drinking water before you pop a pill.

Now, about that old water bottle. If it’s just an old soft-drink container, replace it with one intended for repeated use. Maybe you should get two so one can go in the dishwasher every so often. Try not to handle the bottle, particularly the top, unless your hands are clean.

Plenty of clean water to drink is a privilege enjoyed by workers in this country, with few exceptions. So enjoy drinking your fill for good health.