6 rules for staying hydrated (in dog days and all other seasons)

Be at peak physical and mental readiness by staying well hydrated


Every summer we hear about at least one — and usually more than one — police officer who passes out due to dehydration. Some instances (those typically making the headlines in mainstream news media) are “in extreme heat” but the fact is, heat isn’t an absolutely critical factor in causing dehydration.

Not drinking enough water is the culprit, whether in summer, winter, spring, or fall. It’s the dog days now, but this tip applies year-round. Here are five simple rules on staying hydrated. 

Rule #1: Drink plenty of water. How much is enough, you ask? Your urine is the best telltale. If you “piss clear”, a pale yellow as opposed to deep, rich yellow, you’re probably getting enough water.

Drink water before you are thirsty and keep a few bottles in your go bag for times when you can't get back to the station.
Drink water before you are thirsty and keep a few bottles in your go bag for times when you can't get back to the station. (Greg Friese)

Rule #2: Judiciously read the labels of the sports drinks you consume. Some are better than others, as some of these products are basically soda (sugar, sodium, and preservatives) without bubbles.

Rule #3: Coffee and/or tea are runners-up to water as they’re primarily water and relatively low in sugar and sodium, but the caffeine content does counteract somewhat the hydrating effects of that water.

Rule #4: Eating fruits and vegetables are not only a healthy squad car snack, but those foods also hydrate you. Carrots, celery, and cucumbers are high in water content, as are apples, oranges, and watermelon (with “water” in the name of that fruit, we can call that a “clue”).

Rule #5: Be especially conscious of hydrating yourself after any manner of critical incident. It will not only be physically recuperative, but it will help slow your breathing and calm your heart rate and breathing rate. 

Rule #6: Hydrate yourself well before you begin to feel thirsty. If you’re thirsty, it’s already too late. That being said, whenever you think you’re a little thirsty, see Rule #1.

Remember that the effects of dehydration are not only physical, they’re mental as well. One of the first capabilities a dehydrated person will lose is their ability to think quickly and critically. Keep a few water bottles in your patrol vehicle so you can keep replenishing fluids.

That this hydration stuff applies to off-duty as well. 

Going to play in that summer-league softball game? 

Hydrate.

Hitting a friend’s afternoon BBQ party? 

Hydrate.

Heading to the store to stock up on groceries? 

Hydrate.

Simply going to mow the lawn and prune the hedges? 

Hydrate.

Finally (speaking of off duty), remember that beer, wine and other alcoholic beverages are not hydration. Quite the opposite, in fact. If you’re enjoying an off-duty adult beverage with friends and family, you should probably order it “with a water back.”

Stay safe my friends.

This article, originally published July 30, 2014, has been updated

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