Don’t Let the Summer Heat Beat You Down

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The summer heat is here and the forecast says it’s staying a while. Dehydration can happen in extreme heat conditions when you are exercising, playing, or working outside due to an increase in the amount that you are sweating. It can occur when our bodies lose too much fluid than we are taking in, making it important to replenish that loss promptly. For some, such as older adults, thirst is not a great indicator of when our bodies need more fluids because our natural cue of thirst tends to diminish as we age. With this in mind, we want to make a conscious effort to increase our fluid intake while in extreme temperatures. Warning signs and symptoms of dehydration can vary by age. According to the Mayo Clinic, infants or young children may appear to have dry mouth and tongue, absence of tears when crying, no wet diapers for three hours, sunken eyes or sunken soft spot, lethargy, or irritability. For adults, there may be feelings of extreme thirst, decreased urination, darker-colored urine, fatigue, dizziness, or confusion. For mild cases, you may be able to replenish fluid loss by drinking more water and replacing lost electrolytes with sports drinks. In terms of more severe cases of dehydration, it is advised to seek medical assistance before it leads to potentially life-threatening complications or injuries.

Water is the best way to stay hydrated throughout these warmer days. While helping to prevent dehydration, it also lubricates and protects joints and tissues, excretes wastes, and maintains a normal body temperature. About 20% of our daily fluid intake can come from the foods we eat. During these warmer days, consume foods with higher water content such as cucumbers, watermelons, salad greens, and tomatoes- all of which can be found at the local Farmers’ Market! While water should be the first choice for fluid intake, it can be satisfying to switch up the flavor. In trying to be mindful of added sugars, infused water with fruits and vegetables is a great way to naturally sweeten up your drink. Get creative with your combinations! Some favorites include blueberry + lemon + mint,  strawberry + lemon, or cucumber + lime.

NC State University Safe Plates team has identified safety risks when combining fresh produce and water where best food safety practices are important to follow. Steps to control food safety risks include: using quality, unbruised, or unblemished produce, washing hands thoroughly before prepping, rinsing produce under running water before prepping to add to water, using clean prepping surfaces and utensils, and keeping the temperature of the infused water at or below 41F. Once the infused water has been left out at room temperature for 4 hours, discard the infusion.

N.C. Cooperative Extension’s goal is to provide the residents of the community with research-based knowledge. For more information on nutrition, health, food preservation, and food safety in Lee County please contact the Family and Consumer Sciences Agent, Ashley Szilvay at 919-775-5624.