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Staying Hydrated in Cold Weather: Why It’s Important

Young man and woman on ski slope, drinking waterWhen most people think about hydration and dehydration, they think of the hot, humid summer months. However, it’s just as important to stay hydrated in cold weather.


Dehydration affects your heart rate, kidney, and mental functions- and despite it being cold outside, your body still loses a considerable amount of water through sweating and evaporation.

Also, during the winter, the air is drier. This means you lose more water through respiration as your body attempts to ‘humidify’ the cold/dry air that you breathe. This warm, humidified air is why you see a ‘fog’ in the cold air every time you exhale.

True or False: You don’t feel as thirsty during the winter months

TRUE! Your thirst response is blunted during the winter because your body is working overtime to keep your mucus membranes moist (think nose/mouth). Therefore, you don’t have the dry, parched mouth to hint to you that you’re thirsty.

Dehydration during the Summer/Winter: Which has the higher risk?

IT DEPENDS. Your age, medical condition & activities all play a role in your overall risk. The winter tends to catch more people off guard because they’re not expecting it. Also, in the winter, we tend to drink warmer, caffeinated drinks, which cause diuresis (increased urination), which leads to dehydration.

Does cold weather speed up dehydration?

YES! Your body’s vascular response is to constrict the blood vessels on the periphery (toes/ fingers) to conserve blood volume and warmth to your core. This increases blood flow to your kidneys, which makes them respond with increased urination. You also experience increased fluid loss with respiration.

Does hydration affect your metabolism?

YES! Proper hydration is an important part of the many chemical reactions that take place in your body, including digestion, absorption of nutrients, and waste removal.

During the winter, your body increases heat generation by shivering, which increases your metabolism. Your body also experiences increased water loss via: sweating/skin evaporation, and heavy breathing.

4 Ways to Stay Hydrated This Winter

  • Drink plenty of water.
  • If you play sports, grab the occasional sports drink (replaces electrolytes & carbohydrates).
  • Avoid too many caffeinated beverages.
  • Eat more fruits & vegetables.

How much water/fluids should I consume?

Your daily water intake is really dependent on your activity level and medical condition(s). Most medical professionals agree that you should aim for 48-64 ounces of water daily. You should also sip on water throughout the day to help you stay hydrated so that you don’t feel thirsty.

About Dr. Ryan Murray

Dr. Ryan Murray is a board certified primary care physician with WakeMed Physician Practices. Dr. Murray works out of the Garner Primary Care location, and his current interests include: pediatric & adolescent care, sports & dermatological procedures, & continuity of care with prevention and treatment of acute and chronic conditions.