Hydration in the workplace is an important concern, because dehydration can affect productivity, safety, health care costs and employee morale. Studies of occupational accidents show that the lowest rates occur in cold months and the highest occur in hot months, when sweat losses and therefore dehydration, would be greatest. Dehydration has also been shown to adversely affect decision making ability and cognitive performance, which may impact job productivity and safety. Dehydration can occur in all types of workplaces, from office environments to outdoor industrial work sites.
What are the most common causes of dehydration at work?
- Outdoor causes: Outdoor workers may perform intense physical labour in warm or hot conditions. When performing physical work, sweat output often exceeds water intake, producing a deficit of water in the body, or dehydration. Protective clothing may also increase sweat rates and safety equipment, such as face masks, can make drinking fluids more difficult. These two factors may combine and further contribute to dehydration.
- Indoor causes: Dehydration can reduce mental as well as physical performance, and is therefore just as important for office workers as it is for manual workers. Increased work load, stress, long journeys to and from work and dry air, can all increase water loss. A common cause of dehydration in the modern workplace is air conditioning, which causes a low water content in the atmosphere, leading to increased water loss from the lungs and through the skin. A lack of adequate hydration at work can cause symptoms such as tiredness, loss of concentration and headaches.
How can I prevent dehydration while at work?
There are several ways to prevent dehydration in the workplace. Firstly, make sure you drink enough water. Begin your shift well hydrated and remember to drink water at regular intervals, such as every half an hour. Thirst is a sign that moderate dehydration has already set in. Wear clothing that is loose fitting and made from breathable, natural fabrics, as it is important not to obstruct evaporation from the skin. If working outdoors and exposed to sunlight, protective covering such as a hat, long sleeved shirt and shoes should be worn. Where possible in very warm working conditions, it may be necessary to undertake periods of outdoor work before 10am and after 3pm, in order to avoid the midday heat.
How do I know if I’m drinking enough water?
If you seldom feel thirsty and you’re producing approximately 1.5 litres or more of urine a day, you are more than likely adequately hydrated. If however, you have any of the symptoms listed below you may be mildly to moderately dehydrated:
- dry mouth
- a lack of tears when crying
- dry skin
- decreased urine output
To maintain good hydration, the Institute of Medicine recommends for women, a total of 2.7 litres of water and for men, 3.7 litres each day. These amounts include water from all beverages and foods. Some circumstances will increase this requirement e.g. exercise, hot environments, pregnancy and breastfeeding, and some illnesses like diarrhoea where you lose water.
How can I treat dehydration while at work?
If you become dehydrated while at work, it is important that you begin to replenish your fluid levels immediately. Depending on the level of dehydration, try and drink as much as 1.8 litres of rehydration drink or water in 2‐4 hours. You should then drink at least 10 glasses of water a day to replace lost fluids. Try and rest for 24 hours, even if your symptoms improve. Fluid replacement may take up to a day and a half to achieve.
If you do become dehydrated taking Gastrolyte Electrolyte Hydration product may be beneficial. It provides a balanced solution of glucose and electrolytes that helps to rehydrate the body quickly during dehydrating illnesses. Gastrolyte is suitable for the whole family and is available in effervescent tablets and ready to drink packs, making them convenient, suitable for travelling and easy to use.
Always read the label. Follow the directions for use. If symptoms persist, talk to your health professional. Vitamin supplements should not replace a balanced diet
For more information, please visit https://www.naturalhydrationcouncil.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2016/07/NHC-Hydration-in-Workplace-fact-sheet-FINAL1.pdf