Don't Let the Summer Sun Suck Your Fun: Dehydration

Last updated: July 2023

Water is inherent to our wellbeing as humans. Staying hydrated is especially important when you have a genetic condition that affects the way water and cells interact, like cystic fibrosis. In the summertime when it’s hotter and we spend more time outside being active, dehydration can be a real threat to watch out for. Here’s why staying hydrated is so important with CF, what symptoms to look out for, and how to avoid dehydration while you have fun in the sun.

Higher risk of dehydration

People with CF are at greater risk of dehydration 1,2. One reason the risk is so high is due to the fact people with CF lose 3-4 times the salt in their sweat compared to an average person 1. Typically when people sweat, salt levels become more concentrated in the blood and it triggers your thirst, a signal to your body to consume more liquids and bring the levels back to equilibrium 1. With CF, because large amounts of salt are lost as well, the thirst sensation is slow to trigger even when fluids have been lost through sweat. Relying on your thirst level as an indicator when to drink may not be super reliable with CF.

How do I know if I am hydrated?

If thirst isn’t a reliable indicator, how do I know if I’m hydrated? The answer can be found in the toilet: your pee. Hydrated urine is clear to the color of pale straw-yellow 2. Darker yellow to brown means you are dehydrated and should take steps to rehydrate as soon as possible 2. Consult your doctor about if you take any medications or vitamins that may affect your urine color.

Symptoms to look for

Whether you’re out and about enjoying the warmer weather or exercising, there’s some signs and symptoms of dehydration you should be aware of. Early signs of dehydration are your clue to start rehydrating with liquids and taking a break from the sun. Later signs may warrant a call to your CF clinic and medical care such as IV fluids. Here are some early and late dehydration symptoms 1,2:

Early symptoms

  • Excessive thirst
  • Dry mouth
  • Headache
  • Lack of concentration
  •  Irritability
  • Fatigue
  • Dizziness
  • Salt crystals on skin
  • Dark or reduced amounts of urine

Late symptoms

  • Muscles cramps
  • Loss of appetite
  • Nausea/vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Thickened mucus

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Avoiding dehydration with CF

Specific fluid requirements will depend on your age, gender, activity level, climate you live in, and medical conditions. Your doctor and dietician can help you develop a fluid goal specific to your lifestyle. In general, it’s recommended to drink between 60-100 oz of fluid a day. For my math challenged friends (like me), that’s about 7.5 to 12.5 cups of fluid.

Some tips to stay hydrated include:

  • Mix up your fluid intake with various drinks, i.e. coffee/tea, sparkling water, fruit juice, sports drinks
  • Buy a reusable spill-proof water bottle to carry around on the go
  • Add hydration electrolyte packets during high activity or in hotter climates
  • Eat foods with high fluid amounts, i.e. soup, watermelon, popsicles, cucumber, celery
  • Use a water bottle marked with intake goals throughout the day

Don’t let the summer sun suck your fun with CF and remember to keep adequate hydration a priority!

How do you stay hydrated? Any practical tips for others with CF? Share your story below!

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Cystic-Fibrosis.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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