Healthcare workers have a higher risk of dehydration as they are often working in warm, air-conditioned environments. Even community-based practitioners can get dehydrated due to moving between care settings where they may not have access to drinks or bathroom facilities.
It has long been recognised that this is an issue which has the potential to impact how healthcare workers feel at work and after a shift. However, evidence shows that adequate hydration and regular meal breaks have the potential to increase concentration levels as well as reducing fatigue and anxiety.
More pressingly, long, busy shifts with limited breaks and wearing PPE increase this risk. A significant number of healthcare workers will be working in these conditions, perhaps for the first time, and testimonials are emerging on workers experiencing feelings of thirst due to warm clothing and long shifts.
BDA Work Ready has pulled together a team of hydration experts, sports nutritionists and critical care dietitians to make eight suggestions for healthcare workers at this time.
- Start your shift well hydrated. Drink at least 2-3 large glasses/mugs and bring a water bottle for your commute.
- Thirst isn’t the best indicator of hydration status so don’t wait until you feel thirsty.
- If you can’t drink as much as usual, make sure you drink plenty while doing admin and during breaks.
- Check your urine colour. Dark urine is a sign of dehydration. Aim to keep urine a pale straw colour.
- Have a drink and go to the bathroom before going into PPE areas.
- If your work environment is causing you to sweat heavily, consider using a sports drink designed to replenish electrolytes. Low fat milk will also work.
- Don’t skip meals. Regular meals will all help you stay hydrated and replenishes the micronutrients you lose throughout the day. Fruit and vegetables have a high water content and will help you stay hydrated.
- Avoid excessive consumption of alcohol and caffeinated drinks.
We have created free posters for healthcare settings to download. Available from our Work Ready Resources Centre.
Check your ICU and local public health team policies to ensure you adhere to infection control guidance in the COVID environment.
For most of us, the usual recommendations around fluid intake of 6-8 mugs a day will be enough, and we should focus on healthy choices like water, sugar free squash, unsweetened tea and coffee. This advice has been created specifically for healthcare workers at this time.
If your organisation would like to discuss larger versions for print or a co-branded version of this resource, or you would like to order our Pee Charts for workers to get a better indication of their hydration status, please email firstname.lastname@example.org
Our thanks to members of the BDA Critical Care specialist group committee, Work Ready dietitians Sue Baic, Alison Clark and Nicky Gilbert, and Joan Gandy for their contribution to this poster.