Do you ever feel like you’re not up to par? Maybe you’ve got a bit of headache or you’re feeling fatigued even before your shift has started?
You might be dehydrated. Drinking a glass of water might be all you need to feel better and begin the workday at the top of your game.
Most people know that drinking water throughout the day is essential for staying hydrated when working outdoors in hot weather or when wearing personal protective equipment (PPE). What they may not realize is that it’s also important to stay hydrated when outdoor temperatures are comfortable or when the workday is inside an air-conditioned office.
The fact is most Americans and Canadians are chronically dehydrated and don’t know it. In the United States alone, 75 percent of Americans consume considerably less water than the recommended eight cups a day.
It’s not that people aren’t drinking liquids, it’s just that they’re more likely to go for caffeinated beverages like coffee, soda and energy drinks. When the workday is over, they often unwind with alcohol. These beverages are not the best choices for quenching thirst as they can actually contribute to dehydration. Caffeine and alcohol are both diuretics – substances that cause your body to release more water and lead to more frequent urination. In addition, the added sugars and sodium these beverages often contain contribute to weight gain, tooth decay and high blood pressure.
A Key Component of Health
The adult body is 60 percent water, and in order to carry out functions that include digestion, flushing toxins and regulating body temperature, this proportion needs to be maintained. During a normal day, breathing, sweating and urinating cause the average person to lose about eight cups of water. That’s about three quarts that need to be replenished. Construction workers can lose even more due to the strenuous nature of their job, from taking medications for common conditions like high blood pressure or if they are diabetic. That’s why it’s particularly important that construction workers don’t wait until they’re thirsty to drink water. By the time a person feels the need to drink, they’re already dehydrated.
How Do You Know You’re Running Low on Water?
The body displays a lot of signs that it needs more water. One of the most obvious is the color of urine. In a well-hydrated person, urine is mostly clear with just a tinge of yellow. In a person who is dehydrated, urine will be much darker. This may be difficult to observe in a porta potty, so it’s important to be aware of other symptoms, which include:
- Decreased urine output
- Dry mouth
- Muscle cramps
What Can Employers Do?
Chronic dehydration may not lead to heat stress or heat stroke, but it can affect overall health, worksite productivity and safety. Even one percent dehydration can affect short-term memory and attention span in both men and women. This can lower productivity and increase the risk for injury. Regardless of the time of year or whether a job requires PPE, it’s important that employers schedule water breaks and encourage employees to drink.
The best way to encourage workers to drink more water is to ensure that it’s accessible. Dehydration is less likely to be an issue at worksites when water is made available, placed where it’s easily seen and convenient to access.
The LHSFNA’s Nutrition and Fitness for Laborers program provides additional information that can help Laborers stay healthy through improved dietary and exercise habits. The program includes an instructor’s guide and participant pamphlets. For more information, call 202-628-5465. The LHSFNA brochures Becoming Physically Active and Weight Matters offer additional tips and information on diet and exercise. They can be ordered by going to www.lhsfna.org and clicking on Publications.
[Janet Lubman Rathner]