Summer has returned to Virginia again, and with it comes those longer sun-soaked days, the constant chirping of wildlife, and the heavy, humid heat. Simply taking one step outside into the sauna-like heat brings on workout levels of sweat and the urge to grab a change of clothes.

While this excess of sweating is a small annoyance for our laundry piles, it has significant impacts on our health due to the increase in dehydration. “Staying hydrated is always vital to our day-to-day health, but it is even more important to drink plenty of water in these months of intense heat to avoid heat-related illnesses such as dehydration, heat exhaustion, and heat stroke,” states sports medicine physician Aaron Ferro, DO.

Throughout our busy days, it is easy to forget to proactively drink plenty of fluids. We often wait until the sense of thirst hits us, but by then we are already behind in fluid intake. To help avoid these illnesses and beat the heat, we should all keep these simple hydration tips in mind.

What should I drink to stay hydrated?

  • Water is always essential to maintaining hydration. When working in the heat, it is important to remember to drink plenty of water AND eat regular meals to help replace salt lost in sweat.
  • Sports drinks with balanced electrolytes are helpful for prolonged periods of sweating that last for several hours. However, sports drinks often contain large amounts of sugar, and the overconsumption of sports drinks leads to an unnecessary increase in calories.

What drinks should I avoid?

  • Energy drinks are loaded with sugar and with more caffeine than standard servings of coffee, tea, or soft drinks. Overconsumption of energy drinks can affect your heart due to their massive levels of caffeine.
  • Alcohol causes dehydration since it acts as a diuretic, pushing water out of the body. Consuming alcohol within 24 hours of working in the heat can lead to an increased risk of heat-related illness.

When should I drink water throughout the day?

  • Immediately. Starting the day well hydrated is crucial since it makes staying hydrated throughout your busy day much easier.
  • Whether you are or are not working directly in the heat, you should drink 1 cup or 8 ounces of water every 15-20 minutes. Drinking large amounts of water now and then is less effective than drinking smaller amounts of water more consistently.
  • It often takes several hours to properly replace the amount of fluid lost in sweat, so the sooner you start hydrating, the better.

“Our bodies are roughly 60% water,” says Victor Ratajczak, MD, a sports medicine physician. “So whether you are profusely sweating, have a slight headache, or are experiencing muscle cramps, drinking plenty of water is key to relieving and preventing heat-related illness symptoms and making our bodies function correctly.”