Keeping hydrated

It’s important to drink enough for your body to function normally. You should aim to drink 6–8 glasses (or the equivalent) of fluid every day. This could be, for example, two mugs of tea, a glass of fruit juice, a cup of coffee, three glasses of water and a glass of milk.

Try to choose healthy drinks:

  • water – tap water is free, contains no sugars to damage your teeth and no calories, and is the best drink for your body. Be wary of flavoured bottled waters as these often contain sugar.
  • milk – semi-skimmed, skimmed or 1% fat milk are the healthy choices. Milk contains calcium and plenty of other minerals and vitamins. Milkshakes and other milk-based drinks often contain lots of sugar so have these as an occasional treat only.
  • low-sugar drinks – choose fruit squashes that are low in sugar.
  • fruit or herbal teas – these are a healthy alternative to regular tea and coffee.
  • tea and coffee – drink tea or coffee with a little semi-skimmed or skimmed milk and no added sugar. People react to caffeine differently and you may find it best to stick to low-caffeine or decaffeinated varieties.

Try to limit unhealthier drinks (or avoid them altogether):

  • fruit juices and smoothies – they do contain vitamins and minerals, but they also contain a high amount of fruit sugars, so try to limit yourself to one small glass per day.
  • milky coffees – one medium-sized latte, for example, can contain around 7% of your recommended daily calorie intake, and that’s without adding sugar.
  • hot chocolate – best saved for the occasional treat.
  • fizzy drinks – these often contain very high quantities of sugar and caffeine.
  • high-energy drinks – these contain very high levels of sugar and caffeine and may contain other stimulants.
  • sports drinks – the best way to rehydrate during sports is with water; milk is a great after-sports drink.

It’s important to drink more when you are exercising and during hot weather as your body will lose fluid through sweating. This also goes for when you are ill and have a temperature, as you may be sweating more.

Symptoms of mild dehydration (when your body loses more water than it takes in) include headaches, dry mouth and lips, dark-coloured urine, dizziness and light-headedness. Mild dehydration can be reversed by drinking more fluids.

Severe dehydration (feeling unusually tired or confused, a weak or rapid pulse, not passing urine for several hours) requires urgent medical attention. Contact your GP or call NHS 111 immediately.