All it took was one fortnight of good weather across the UK to get us in the mood for summer. If you lift your nose in the right direction you may even be able to catch a whiff of the odd barbecue party in the air.

With the warmest time of the year fast approaching and those holidays to even hotter climes approaching, it’s crucial that you pay close attention to hydration – especially if you have small children of your own.

What is dehydration?

Our bodies are made up of between 60% and 80% of water. So when we don’t consume enough fluid and our body runs short of water, our bodies can suffer in a number of ways. This lack of water is known as dehydration. On the NHS Choices website, dehydration is described simply as occuring "when your body loses more fluid than you take in".

What are the symptoms of dehydration?

Dehydration can lead to a number of different symptoms, and lack of water affects people in different ways. Here are some of the most common ones:

  • Yellow urine
  • Dry mouth
  • Headaches
  • Lightheadedness
  • Poor digestion and constipation
  • Increased hunger
  • Fatigue
  • Overheating
  • Muscle cramps

As we can see from the points listed above, water is involved in everything from temperature control and blood flow to digestion and the function of our vital organs. It isn’t just water itself that causes problems when dehydrated – an imbalance between fluid levels and the sodium and potassium in our cells can lead to muscle spasms.

It is not uncommon for people to suffer from pain, injuries or infections that are difficult to explain during hot conditions – without knowing that simply consuming more water could solve the problem.

One of the body’s important defence mechanisms is to ration water content when a regular, reliable supply of fluid is withheld. This means prioritizing the brain at the expense of other organs and extremities. Unfortunately, not all drinks adequately combat this problem. In fact, consuming sugary drinks or alcohol is likely to make the problem worse.

Many fizzy drinks act as diuretics and contribute towards the expulsion of water from the body. Their acidic compositions encourage the body to sacrifice water and alkalizing minerals to remove their damaging residues.

How much should I drink?

The most common recommendation you will hear is 2 litres of water a day. More recent research has shown that due to the fact that people perspire at different rates and expel air through breath vapour at different rates, the actual volume required can differ hugely from person to person.

Exercising will also impact on the volume of water required, so advice from many health professionals is simply to drink whenever you are thirsty. Two litres of fluid remains a handy yardstick, however.