The Sun & Water Retention

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Water retention, also known as edema, is when the body retains fluids. Water retention results in puffy ankles, feet and limbs, as well in the distension of the abdomen. It may be very uncomfortable to experience, or the symptoms may be very mild. No matter, water retention may be a sign of a more serious problem. Water retention can be caused by a number of factors, including exposure to the sun.


Direct exposure to the sun causes a person to dehydrate more easily, since the body is less efficient at removing fluid from the tissues in the heat. When the body is dehydrated, it retains fluids in an attempt to keep water in the body, even while these fluids are not being used effectively. When in the sun, it is important for a person to stay hydrated by regularly consuming fluids (ideally, water) and to rest regularly. If a person is rigorously exercising or active in the sun, the need to stay hydrated is even more urgent.


The sun also indirectly causes water retention via sunburn. Sunburns lead to water retention and blistering, since the body secretes toxins at a high rate, causing the kidneys to overload and store water in other parts of the body. Especially severe sunburns, such as second- and third-degree burns, can cause severe edema. If you experience mild to severe sunburns, it is imperative to stay hydrated (even once inside or in the shade) to help your body recover from the burn.

Exacerbating Factors

Although the sun alone can cause water retention, other factors can exacerbate water retention in the sun. For instance, a diet high in sodium may worsen the effects of water retention. Even a single meal that is excessively salted may cause an episode of water retention. Also, poor nutrition can contribute to water retention. Diseases of the kidney, liver or heart and certain medications, such as steroids, blood pressure medications and anti-inflammatory drugs, may cause the body to retain water. If you have any of these conditions or take these medications, it is important to take special precautions to stay hydrated in the sun.

Signs and Symptoms of Water Retention

The signs of water retention are essentially the same as the signs of dehydration. Immediate signs include infrequent urination, thirst, dizziness or light-headed feeling and fatigue. Signs of long-lasting water retention include aching or swelling, stiffness of joints, rapid weight gain over a short period of time or indentations of the skins.