Tips for Staying Hydrated and Avoiding Harmful UV Rays

The heat of a sunny day can take a heavy toll on your body and your skin. If you're planning a day in the great outdoors or just a day sitting by the pool, it is essential to take steps to protect yourself from the dangers of the sun's rays and dehydration. Read on to learn more about the importance of wearing sunscreen and tips for staying hydrated.


What Is Dehydration?   

Your body is primarily made of water — as much as 60 percent of your total body mass is water. The body cannot properly function if the amount of water gets too low. Water is necessary to keep the blood flowing smoothly, to power and control specific biochemical reactions, and allows the liver and kidneys to filter toxins out of your body properly. Water also helps your body properly digest and absorb foods, and keeps many other bodily functions working as well.

Dehydration occurs when the water levels in your body drop too low. It is easily correctable in the early stages, but if the condition continues, you may suffer permanent organ damage and even death. Dehydration may result from an extended period of diarrhea or vomiting, or a high fever. In these cases, you must seek medical treatment both for the dehydration and the ailments that caused it.

In cases where the person with dehydration is not ill, the condition results from your body's attempt to cool itself. When you're in a hot environment, your body produces sweat to cool you down. This sweat consists mainly of water and salt.

While sweating may prevent you from overheating, you can end up dehydrated if you do not take steps to replace the lost fluids. To compound the problem, the salt lost while you sweat makes it harder for your body to retain the fluids you drink. That is why sports drinks contain salts and other electrolytes to help your body hold onto the fluids.


How to Avoid Dehydration   

The most effective way to avoid dehydration is to drink plenty of fluids and stay out of the worst of the desert heat. It is important that you drink enough water throughout the day, not just when exercising or out in the sun.  

Drinking eight glasses of water first thing in the morning will not do much to keep you hydrated as the day rolls on. The excess water will simply pass through your kidneys and out of your body. However, drinking eight glasses of water throughout the day will keep you hydrated and all of your bodily functions running smoothly.

Pay attention to excessive heat warnings. These are released to let you know that even if you do everything right to stay hydrated, you may overheat or become dehydrated if you spend too much time outdoors.


Recognizing Dehydration   

It is essential to recognize the signs of mild or moderate dehydration so that you can take steps to rectify the situation. Once severe dehydration has set in, IV fluids and other medical treatment may be necessary to rehydrate the body.


Early signs of dehydration include:   

  • Feeling thirsty: Your body is trying to tell you something by causing thirst, so don't ignore it.

  • Having a dry or sticky-feeling mouth: If the body is short on fluids, it will cut back on saliva production.

  • Dark urine: Urine should be clear or a pale shade of yellow.

  • Fatigue: Your body's way of trying to force you to slow down.

At this level, it is easy to reverse the signs of dehydration. You need to rehydrate, so drink plenty of water and eat water-rich fruits and vegetables. These include melons, peaches, strawberries, tomatoes, cucumbers, lettuce, and celery. If you're not a fan of water, you can substitute no-sugar-added flavored water or coconut water and still effectively rehydrate yourself. Avoid caffeinated beverages as they are dehydrating.


Signs of Moderate Dehydration   

If you do not supply your body with the fluids it needs at the early stages, your dehydration will worsen. The signs of moderate dehydration include:

  • Dry skin

  • Headache

  • Muscle cramps

  • Reduced need to urinate, but with only small amounts of dark yellow, strong-smelling urine released when you do

  • Swollen tongue

  • Sugar cravings

At this stage, you may need more than just water to replace the fluids that you have lost. Sports drinks or electrolyte drinks designed for sick kids are a safe bet. If you don't have those handy, a sugar-rich soda or tea followed by water may do the trick.

Regardless of how you replace the fluids, getting yourself out of the heat and sun is crucial until your fluid levels have returned to normal.


Signs of Severe Dehydration   

Hopefully, you can replace the fluids your body needs before it gets this far, but these signs of severe dehydration require immediate medical attention to prevent permanent damage. Symptoms of severe dehydration include:

  • Sluggishness

  • Slurred speech

  • Dizziness

  • Confusion

  • Fainting

  • Heart palpitations

  • Raised body temperature


Protect the Outside of Your Body as Well   

Dehydration isn't the only risk you need to protect yourself from in the extreme heat and sun of the desert. Your skin needs protection too. The depletion of the ozone layer means that all skin types need protection from the sun's harmful UV rays.

Sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher is the best way to prevent sunburn and skin damage and to reduce the risk of developing skin cancer. And, just like you should drink plenty of water every day to keep your body healthy, you should apply sunscreen daily to keep your skin healthy.

Sunscreen helps prevent the signs of aging skin caused by sun damage. Fine lines, dry skin, loose skin, and dark spots can be worsened by sun damage.

There are almost no limits to the benefits of sunscreen protection. In one single step, you can reduce your risk of skin cancer, prevent damage that prematurely ages your skin, and prevent painful and potentially hazardous sunburns.

Sunscreen should be worn every day you will be exposed to the harmful UV rays of the sun, indoors or out. On average, there are 286 sunny days per year in Arizona, so it is probably best for you to get in the habit of putting it on every morning. On the days you plan to venture out, especially if you expect to be in water or sweating heavily, be sure the sunscreen you choose is water-resistant. If you have overly sensitive skin, you may need to try a few different brands before you find one compatible with your skin, but it is well worth the effort to do so.

When you don’t have sunscreen handy or fear that what you applied hours ago has lost its effectiveness, you can still protect yourself from harmful UV rays. Cover up exposed skin with a blanket or full-length clothing even if you feel warm. A wide-brimmed hat is always a wise choice, even if you wear sunscreen, to protect your head from overheating and to block the sun's rays.

If you do not have extra clothing or a hat, find whatever shade is nearby. This can be an umbrella, a tree, the awning of a business, or even the shadow of a parked car. Anything is better than baking in the hot sun without sunscreen protection.

Both dehydration and skin damage are side effects of spending too much time in the sun without planning. Always stay hydrated and keep bottles of drinking water with you, especially in the desert heat. You should make applying sunscreen part of your morning routine, whether you are a man or a woman. It is also good to carry extra with you if you spend more time in the sun than you expected.


Beat the Heat in a Liv Community  

Take advantage of the many heat-beating amenities available in your Liv Community. These include central air conditioning, a pool, and a shaded BBQ area.

Beautiful photo of the arid desert.