3 Reasons Dehydration Occurs in Cold Weather—and What To Do About It

Photo: Getty/ Braun S
When you think of dehydration, do images of hot days at the beach or exercising in sweltering heat come to mind? If so, that makes sense. Those are thirst-inducing activities, especially in hot weather. But you can experience dehydration during winter, too. You might not sweat buckets in the winter, but your hydration levels can take a hit.

Yes, dehydration in the winter often happens because you might simply forget to drink water. However, there are additional factors to consider. "Exposing your body to cold weather will typically make it so your body needs to filter out more blood than usual. As a result, you'll find yourself having to pee more often," says Aleece Fosnight, MSPS, PA-C, medical advisor to Aeroflow Urology. This is a result of "cold-induced diuresis," which Fosnight explains is a process the body initiates to keep you warm and stave off hypothermia. Hypothermia, according to the Mayo Clinic, is a medical emergency that occurs when your body temperature drops temperatures below 95 degrees Fahrenheit.

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Cold-induced diuresis is the body's way of keeping warm. Essentially, your body decreases blood flow to your skin and extremities and concentrates it around your organs to keep them warm, Fosnight explains. As a result, more blood flows to your kidneys which produces more urine. This, coupled with the fact that you sweat less in the winter, means you tend to pee more in colder weather. Peeing more might not make you thirsty, but it can lead to dehydration.

"If you are filtering more blood, you are filtering more fluid out of your body which is why it is vital to replenish and increase fluid, especially water, intake during the winter months," Fosnight says. "Some people aren't a fan of drinking cold water in the winter months and will suggest room temperature or even hot lemon water (if citrus isn't an irritant for you) to help hydrate."

Winter chill makes it harder to notice if you're dehydrated, but keeping track of how you're feeling can help you stay on top of your water intake. Common dehydration symptoms include extreme thirst, less frequent urination, dark-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness, and confusion, according to the Mayo Clinic. Fosnight explains that it's essential to keep your body warm and drink water more frequently to prevent cold-induced diuresis. If you find yourself experiencing UTI symptoms like burning when you pee or persistent urgency to pee, she adds that it's important to check in with your healthcare provider.  She also adds that you make sure to use the restroom when you feel the urge to pee, instead of holding it, because delaying urination can also cause UTIs.

And, even though cold weather doesn't leave you panting and sweating, it's still a good idea to reach for some more water throughout the day.

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