Top Tips to Avoid Dehydration and Food Poisoning in Summer
Stay safe and hydrated during the UAE's hot weather with top tips from Dr. Sherine Abdalla, Consultant Gastroenterologist
17 July 2023
As the weather heats up and summer starts, many of us take the opportunity to eat and exercise outdoors.
However, extreme heat can take a toll on our overall health. Specifically, dehydration and food-borne illnesses such as food poisoning spike significantly during the summer months.
Why does dehydration increase in summer?
Dehydration occurs when the amount of water leaving the body is higher than the amount being taken in. This mismatch can occur because of different factors, such as lack of sufficient water drinking, excessive sweating, staying under the sun, and strenuous exercise.
Excessive sweating may lead to dipped water content in the body and can be the main cause of dehydration in summer.
Extreme physical activity in hot weather and exposure to heat signal the body to produce more sweat in order to keep it cool but they can also cause dehydration if water is not replenished along with it.
What are the symptoms of dehydration?
You may feel excessively thirsty, light-headed, and intolerant to heat when you are dehydrated. Your tongue and mouth would also feel dry, with flushing of the skin, fatigue, extreme tiredness, and lack of appetite, and your urine would turn dark.
How can I avoid dehydration in summer?
Be proactive! Since thirst is a late sign of dehydration, drinking fluids before becoming thirsty is key. In particular, if exercise or heavy physical activity is planned outdoors, drinking water 2 hours before the activity becomes necessary.
It is best, however, to avoid any strenuous workout in hot weather.
Best liquids to drink to stay cool:
Water and other fluids, such as electrolyte-based rehydration drinks, fresh juices, and sports drinks should be consumed at regular intervals.
Avoid caffeinated drinks, alcohol, and soda, as they exacerbate dehydration. It is also recommended that you avoid high salt in hot weather.
What about food poisoning?
As summer holidays begin, we all enjoy gathering with family and friends for outdoor get-togethers or picnics often over a meal that is sometimes cooked under less-than-ideal sanitary conditions. And who doesn’t enjoy eating street food every once in a while?
However, think of all the subpar hygienic conditions associated with these enjoyable activities.
The contaminated surfaces, infrequent handwashing, improperly washed utensils, and the flies, to name a few. All these can provide an ideal culprit for food-borne illnesses and food poisoning.
In summer months, the bacteria that cause food-borne illnesses flourish in the hot, humid weather. Add to that factors such as improper washing of vegetables and fruits, improper storage of meats (for example, in a sub-optimally functioning cooler), and undercooking your juicy steak.
All these factors contribute to the spiking of food poisoning cases in the UAE's summer months.
What are the symptoms of food poisoning, and what are some of the bacteria responsible for food-borne illnesses?
Common to almost all food-borne infections are symptoms of nausea, vomiting, abdominal cramps, diarrhoea, which can be watery or bloody, and fever.
Common bugs include Escherichia coli (E. coli), Campylobacter, Norovirus, Salmonella, Staphylococcus aureus (Staph), and Vibrio.
I think I’ve contracted a food-borne infection, what should I do?
It might seem logical to take medications that suppress diarrhoea and vomiting when one starts experiencing these uncomfortable symptoms. But think about it. Diarrhoea and vomiting are natural defence mechanisms through which your body is trying to get rid of the offensive bug.
By suppressing these mechanisms, you are making it harder for your body to get rid of these organisms and may therefore prolong the duration of your illness.
Instead, one should avoid eating further and continue to hydrate aggressively. Most cases of food poisoning can be managed conservatively at home.
OK, I am not getting better, should I go to the doctor?
If vomiting is so severe that no matter how much you try to hydrate no fluid is staying in, or if your urine becomes so dark, or worse if you are unable to urinate, you should certainly go to the doctor.
Moreover, if you experience light-headedness, neck stiffness, confusion, rapid heartbeats, paralysis, or double vision, you should visit the emergency room in the nearest hospital as soon as possible.
But how can I prevent food poisoning during the summer months?
- Hand washing, hand washing and hand washing!
- Hygienic practices such as proper washing and disinfection of utensils, plates, and anything that touches your food.
- Proper washing of fruits and vegetables.
- Be careful with any canned food. If the container looks damaged, is leaking, it spurts liquid or foam when opened, or if the food smells bad, or is discoloured or mouldy, throw it away. If in doubt, throw it out!
- Avoid consuming undercooked meats or raw fish.
- Use proper food storage practices, including proper refrigeration.
- It is always safer to eat home-prepared food whenever possible!
To consult with a doctor at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital in Dubai, please get in touch below.
Authored by Dr. Sherine Abdalla, Consultant Gastroenterologist at Mediclinic Welcare Hospital.