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Staying Hydrated this Summer

Water is incredibly important to your health.  Your body uses water to remove waste, lubricate joints, and to maintain its temperature.  Every single part of your body needs it, down to the tiniest of cells.  It even composes over half of your body weight.  For all of these reasons, it is very important that you stay hydrated, especially through the summer months when you lose water more quickly.

Where does the water go?  Water leaves your body on a regular basis, even when you aren’t sweating.  Of course you lose water when you go to the bathroom, but you also lose it when you breathe.  Hot weather and physical activity make you sweat more and therefore lose more water than you normally do through your regular daily functions.  Illness, fever, and diarrhea can make more water leave your body than usual.

What is dehydration?  When your body doesn’t have enough water, it becomes dehydrated.  Symptoms include dark urine, dry mouth, stomach pains, fatigue, headache, confusion, and dizziness.  In more extreme cases, it can also cause you to not be able to urinate or to have no tears when you cry.  While everyone is susceptible to dehydration, you are more at risk if you are ill, pregnant or breastfeeding, elderly, or if you spend a lot of time outdoors.

How much water do I need?  The old adage is that you should drink eight 8-ounce glasses of water per day, but this may vary from person to person.  The best way to check is to look at the color of your urine.  If it is colorless or light yellow, then you are probably drinking enough.  If it is dark yellow or amber-colored, you aren’t.  Keep in mind that vitamins and medications can affect the color of your urine regardless of how much you consume.

What counts?  While water is the only thing you truly need to stay hydrated, many people like to mix it up with other drinks as well.  Milk, tea, juices and sports drinks do count toward your water intake, but be wary of sugars and extra calories that come along with them.  Caffeinated drinks also bring water into your system, but the caffeine can flush it out just as quickly.  Keep your coffee intake to a minimum, and stay away from energy drinks.

How can I make sure I’m getting enough?  Staying hydrated doesn’t have to take a ton of effort.  Try keeping a refillable water bottle with you throughout the day so you never have to stop what you’re doing to get a drink.  Take a sip anytime you’re thirsty; you shouldn’t wait until you’re desperate for a drink.  Make sure you drink plenty of water before, during, and after a workout, when dehydration can hit fast.  If you’re getting bored with plain water, try adding slices of fruit or a squeeze of lemon juice to change up the flavor.  Fruit and sports drinks can help you replace electrolytes when you’ve been working out.

While there are many reasons to make sure you’re getting enough liquids, there’s no reason that it has to be a big challenge.  Watch your body for signs of dehydration, and make sure you don’t go long periods of time without a drink.  You’ll love the way you feel when you’re hydrated!